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Written by FrankHarvey in portal Trident Media Group

All Rivers Run into the Sea

Life is a thief. You spend all of it chasing the things it has taken from you. But no one ever catches up to it. Life took my first five years, all the moments leading up to this, my first memory. I can’t remember why I was standing there, in the middle of the living room bleeding and naked.

There are memories and then there are the things you just know but can’t remember why you know them. I knew I was me but couldn’t remember why I was me. I felt as though I had just landed. I knew I was naked because I saw everything God gave me when I looked down to my toes. I knew I was bleeding because I watched bloody ribbons twist around my legs from the back to the front like red stripes on white mint. The warm streams trickled to my ankles like roots wrapping between my toes, turning beige naps of carpet into wine.

My blood was the second thing that life took. I imagined the Earth’s magnetic pulses seducing the liquid iron from my heart, through my veins and pores as little red rivers between pale shores, through the carpet and the wood, into the concrete and the clay beneath my feet, then back to her core. That’s where she keeps it all, our histories and moments. We all boil down to bloody magma. That is how she keeps us warm. She is relentless.

I knew that here was home because the air hinted that a meal was in the oven. I knew the woman outside the dining room window was my mother although I can’t remember birth. Bright and dim white spots in the air reflected sunlight like ghostly glass shards dancing through the room between the chandelier and the mirror.

Mom always liked the windows open, except for the living room one which was just one big pane of glass that framed our street and the neighbor’s house. The house smelled like wind, felt like wind. The eyes of the house were always open, as an invitation or an escape route. Both, perhaps. I would find out some day. Jazz was always on the record player, but only with the windows open. It was as if she was sending a signal, like a lighthouse. Music doesn’t sound the same with the windows closed.

From the center of the living room, I watched my mother in the back yard, through the white spots in the dining room and windy jazz, out through the back window. She unhooked white linens from wooden clothespins. But she didn’t just remove the sheet. She held the cloth, rocked with it, but not like a child. To her they were someone, holding her and rocking her in return. Clothespins perched on the wire clothesline observed the performance. Springing from the knees she spun around and held the sheet draped in front of her so all I could see was her fingers pinching the corners. The cool white cotton defied the sun and cupped the breeze like a sail. The air pulled a corner from one hand, twisting it gently away from her. This gave her a shy smile. She reeled it back in to her and closed her eyes when she smelled it. Mom loved to dance.

Folding that tall white flag in half against her chest her glance met mine. She stretched the sheet over the bridge of her nose, across her face so I could only see the top half of it. Her grey eyes broke my heart when they smiled at me. It was a desperate, loyal smile, one that promised to hold you while the world was cracking open under your feet.

But her eyes stopped smiling. Her brows pulled her lashes and lids open wide. Her pupils twitched scans up and down my body. Her chest inflated, shoulders dropped, heels spun, and she ran out of view with the sheet waving behind her. I forgot that I was bleeding.

The metal storm door clicked and clanged. Glass rattled when it hissed shut. I heard her feet slide and pound on the kitchen floor like the drums slapping from the record player. Her long strides split her floral print robe open like silk curtains. Through the white sun sparks in the dining room, she veered toward me, the linen sheet behind her waving to escape out the back window. Dropping to her knees in front me, both hands clung to my shoulders. We were face to face. There was nothing I could say. She looked down at the blood outlining a red moat around my feet and toes. Her eyes shot back up to mine. Quick inhaled breaths flared her nostrils. Terror clenched her jaw. She looked like she saw the world cracking beneath me. The only thing I could find to say was, “Don’t look Mommy. Don’t look.”

That just seemed to make it worse. She wrapped the white sheet around me. Her warm arms and sweaty palms pressed the cool cotton against me like kneading paws. It felt good. Somehow I didn’t feel any pain. Or maybe I did, but at this point in my life I didn’t know that pain was a bad thing. This may be the best I have ever felt, but how would I know.

The small of my back, then the middle, then the top started to pour out blood from hundreds of little slices all starting to weep one after another. I could feel them stain the cloth like red stars on a white sky. One by one they wept, becoming shooting stars. She held me and the bleeding stars in the white sky. She held everything in place. I felt like I belonged there, to whatever world on which I had just landed. She was holding her breath, and me and the white sky so tightly like she was trying to stop time. Maybe she did. The sky was turning red now. The wooden birds on the clothesline watched us. One hung upside down. They were getting a good show today.

I could feel her look at her hands behind my back. I could feel her shock, fibers stiffened in her body, she froze to stop from shaking. A forearm swept up between my legs, her palm pressed my belly, cradling me through the other arm as my mother lunged up to her feet. Bouncing down the hallway, feet first, she lassoed me at my waist, and I watched my bloody footprints in the rug drift further away until we hooked into the bathroom. The jazz only echoed a murmur in here. I got swung into the other arm then onto her hip. Mom moved quickly, but not panicked, like it was standard operating procedure. It reminded me that she was a nurse in the war. This must be how the wounded soldiers felt, being dragged away and repaired like a piece of machinery. She reached for a rusty green box with a red cross on the wall hung by a nail. Rattling the tin box from the wall and the nail with it, she shook open the clasp and dumped the contents into the sink. The nail pinged on the tile floor. The tin box entrails clanged as she reached in and dug through them: thin long limbed scissors, short pointed scissors, white paper medical tape, sheer white strips of cloth, dark glassed jars with green tin lids.

She sat on the toilet lid and unfolded me, belly first over her lap and uncovered me. The corners of the sheet fell to my sides so I could see red freckled cloth. The air from the small bathroom window felt cool on my back. I turned my neck to watch her. She pushed me back around and said, “No.” Eyes back down to the ground, I heard the faucet run, then warm drops were wrung onto my back. Pink water ran from my shoulders, down my arms, dripping off the tip of my finger onto the floor, resting in the white trenches between the ceramic tiles. The tiny bulbs of water gathered together in the grout like lanes of wet traffic. I made up stories about how I ended up here. Maybe I was a puppet, a marionette, and someone cut my strings. I landed down on this stage when the Devil ripped those strings from my back. Sure, that’s how I got here. Or maybe God is just bored. Bored enough to stick pins into this pin cushion not knowing that I am inside. Maybe He does know I’m in here. And, maybe, that’s the point. I know there is a God but I don’t remember why I know that, and now I know that the world is his pin cushion and we are stuffed inside.

The warm towel pressed against my back then slid down to my legs. The air felt cool again when it passed. Then a new, cold liquid stung every single opening. Stings like gasoline in papercuts rushed through me. It smelled like it too. Sucking air and spit through my clenched teeth I turned around. She pushed my head back down again, “Stop it.” I looked at the liquid trickling down my arm again. This time it wasn’t pink. It was clear. “That’s a good sign,” I thought.

From the living room the record hissed and crackled. I kept quiet so I could hear the neighborhood world outside. A trashcan clanged. Lawn mowing blades chirped as they reeled. Parents screamed at each other from inside the middle of other houses. A train went by on the Pennsylvania railroad; I could feel the rumble whisper through me and the bathroom. It was trying to tell me where it was going but I couldn’t understand it. The warm cloth dragged over my back once more then dabbed pressure on each cut. 

Fingertipped scoops of cold thick jelly tapped gentle dabs on my back. After this I heard a different sound. The metal scissors plucked from the sink. Snip. Snip. This sound spun a tornado in my belly. I don’t know why but it did. She rested her wrists on the small of my back, “You’re gonna feel a pinch now, a bunch of ‘em. Just like this.” She pinched my skin with her fingernails. “Then tugs.” She stretched my skin in her pinched fingers. “A buncha those. Hear Me? Don’t be scared. Okay?” I nodded my head yes and inhaled deeply.

She started singing her favorite hymn. I don’t know why but I remembered that Mom only sang this song when something bad happened or was about to. This made my belly feel like a tornado spinning full of angry moths up into my throat.

Snip.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

Pinch.

And He tells me I am His own;

Tug.

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

Pinch.

None other has ever known.

Tug.

Snip.

Her voice was like the white linen sheet in the wind. Thousands of fine threaded vibrations dancing in the air. She always sounded the same no matter how bad things were. It softened the pinches and tugs. Now I was being laced up like a marionette. Maybe I am a puppet after all. What plays could I be in now that I am restrung? I think I’ll be an actor one day.

Every time I asked how much longer, she told me five more minutes. She wasn’t lying, technically. It was a lot of sets of five more minutes. Dusk dimmed through the bathroom window. I pretended I was a boot, a soldier’s, being laced up. She stitched the wounds from my neck all the way down to my feet. My skin felt tied tight. She sat me up on her lap and started unrolling the white gauze around my neck, under my arms, across my chest. Now I am a mummy, a mummy with black boots. These boots smell a lot like smoke. I looked up at the bathroom window. A bobbing grey cloud sneaked up to it, winding out like the ghost of a snake. Mom stopped singing. Her hands paused. She looked up too, smelled the air, and swept me away again.

Bouncing down the hall, I watched the half used gauze roll unravel behind us, tethering us to the bathroom. The smoke got thicker as we ran in between the dining and living rooms, passed the red footprints, even thicker as we got to the kitchen, the gauze umbilical cord still intact. She sat me down on the floor, a half-naked mummy, at the threshold of the kitchen. She ran in.

Sheets of smoke huffed out of the top of the oven and through the four spiraled burners on top, to the ceiling, settling in a congregation of herding puffy smoke. The bent nook of her arm covered the bottom of her face like the sheet did in the backyard. I covered my face too. Mom reached in for the oven handle and reflexed back from the heat. As she turned her head back she saw my shielded face. She ran over to me, shifting out of her robe and sliding to the floor on her knees in front of me. Sweat dotted her face. She put the robe in my hands and pressed them to my face, “Stay.” I stayed, although my tornadoed guts told me I should go help her. 

Smoke flooded out of the dining room window. The ceiling was striped black. Without her robe, Mom was stripped right down to her white bloomers. Rushing back to the kitchen, she took a dish rag from the sink, this time using it as a glove to heave open the oven door. Braided fingers of golden red flames twisted out, jagged, at her. Soot clung to the sweat on her red cheeks. She jerked back, her body reflecting the amber glow. The glowing claws hissed and cracked at her. She reached straight back, with both bloody hands, ripping the copper fire can off the wall along with the nail.

There she was. My mom, the firefighting nurse. Her legs planted wide like a baseball batter. Ash slashed across her face like warpaint. The copper can reflected the white fire glow on the front side. I saw my own distorted reflection in it. Heat smothered the house. From where I was sitting she was shaped like a five pointed star in knickers, sweat matted black hair at the top, bent right elbow stretching the handle back like a bicycle pump, left hand holding the can out like a shotgun pump, two white legs stretched out at the bottom. She pressed the handle into the can. Pressurized liquid shot from the reservoir into the oven, stinging the flames. The fire winced then clawed back out at her. She cocked and pushed again with tight white knuckles until the brass handle clicked. Fire shrieked back vengeance at her this time. She pumped the handle again. The fire hissed back. Her muscles twisted and pumped the handle back and forward. The blaze cowered. Again. She fought faster. White, yellow, and orange wisps twitched, flickers shrank back into a sopping black ball, crackling in the black pan on the center rack. Pop. Pop, along with the record player.

The can dropped, ringing empty down to the floor with the nail. Her feet back-pedalled to the wall opposite the oven, still watching the oven for signs of blaze. She slid her back down the wall to sit, then rested her arms on her knees and exhaled. I still had the silk robe over my face. Together, we stared at the solidified lava mass in the black pan. If God was bored he sure isn’t now. She chuckled to herself without smiling which also looked like she might cry.

Rolling the back of her head against the wall she turned to me. Something about the way she squeezed her brows together told me that she didn’t sign up for this. Her stillness said that she had been through worse. Her pale eyes pleaded with me, begged me to trust her. I dropped the robe from my face to show that I did. She had no idea that on that day she became my hero. I should have told her that.

Her dyed hands slapped against the floor. She pushed herself up on all fours then crawled over to me. My mom was resilient. Her face was still soft and playful under the sweat and battle dust. She dropped her shoulders and put her forehead to mine, “Catbird.” That’s what she called me, mostly when she needed to hear it more than I did. She reeled in the trail of gauze leading down the hall to the bathroom and finished wrapping me. Her red and black wet hands stained the white threaded mesh. A perfect C shaped scar arched just above the nail on her right index finger. This must be what the soldiers saw when her healing fingertips reached from under the Army uniformed sleeves.

Bandaged in gauze and wrapped in her peony printed robe she swept me up and over to the olive green velvet sofa in front of the glass window. Charred small holes speckled the cushions from glowing tobacco ash that fell from Dad’s pipe. The dark wood legs always snapped a little when we sat on it. We were chest to chest. She held me and sang.

My chin resting on her shoulder, I watched ladybug on the window, a floating red island. It was bare, blank. I made up stories about where its black spots went, probably where life keeps its collection of stolen things, at the center of the earth. It reminded me of the drops of blood on the white sheet, but a walking red droplet with big white eyes and black antennae picking up radio waves from the air. Maybe we listen to the same shows. It flew off. I wondered if it ever fell and what it would be like to fall when all along you know you can fly.

I looked across the street to where the Prokoriev’s lived. We just called them the P’s. They’re Russian. Sometimes I’d watch them glide on the planks of their porch swing (which creaked like our couch but in a different way). Their son Peter, Peter Perseus Prokoriev, and I were born exactly one day apart in the same place, Holy Spirit hospital. I liked sharing a birthday with him. He hated it, the fact that I was always right on his heels. We used to belong to the same church until we stopped going. I asked Mom why we stopped going. She always answered, “Because the holy water burned me.” She said that’s how she got the scarred C on her finger. But I think we really stopped going because of Dad.

“What happened sweetie? Can you tell Mommy what happened?”

I just ummed and twisted my lips from side to side.

“Mommy needs to know.”

I needed to know too. She was supposed to know everything. But I guess she did enough for one day.

“Don’t know.”

“Think real hard, Ford.” That’s the name she called me when things were serious, my real name. She called me Tiger when everything was peachy which wasn’t too often.

“I think --”

“You think what?” She perked up straight, took me from her shoulder and waited eagerly, attentive. She ruffled my shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes. I started a sentence I didn’t know how to finish.

“Well? You think what?” Her eyes tensed like beams pulling from me an answer. “What is it?”

I had to produce a response but I had no information to offer. I tried to remember. It was like trying to hold on too tightly to a greasy dream that keeps writhing away deeper, back into memory.

“I think. That. Um. God. Was just bored?” I arched my eyebrows, in suspense, waiting for her approval.

She closed her eyes slowly, her top lashes rested on her cheeks, inhaling with her chest and shoulders. She was disappointed. She needed an answer. I couldn’t give it to her. Her chest pumped with the start of a chuckle. Her lips bowed up slightly, puffing her cheeks, squeezing her eyes. She pointed her head down so I could only see the top of it. It was the moment before someone is about to open the flood gates of laughter or tears. You brace yourself for both.

“Don’t cry, Mom. It’s okay. I’ll help.” I didn’t know how to help but I knew she needed some right now.

Then, short waves of laughing air came in puffs through her nose, from her throat and stomach. Her shoulders trembled up and down. The corners of her mouth turned up to meet the corners of her eyes. Her jaw heaved open like the oven door and laughter rushed out at me like the flames. The flood gates opened. Springs of water surrounded me and leaked into my own eyes and ears and nose and mouth so I started laughing too. It was like we were holding hands, without embracing, in the middle of a tsunami. We cried laughing until our souls fainted, because we weren't supposed to and because we had to. Her laugh bounced and snorted and squeezed her eyes like the sea had been dammed up since Genesis. That was the happiest I would ever see my mother.

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Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by FrankHarvey in portal Trident Media Group
All Rivers Run into the Sea
Life is a thief. You spend all of it chasing the things it has taken from you. But no one ever catches up to it. Life took my first five years, all the moments leading up to this, my first memory. I can’t remember why I was standing there, in the middle of the living room bleeding and naked.

There are memories and then there are the things you just know but can’t remember why you know them. I knew I was me but couldn’t remember why I was me. I felt as though I had just landed. I knew I was naked because I saw everything God gave me when I looked down to my toes. I knew I was bleeding because I watched bloody ribbons twist around my legs from the back to the front like red stripes on white mint. The warm streams trickled to my ankles like roots wrapping between my toes, turning beige naps of carpet into wine.

My blood was the second thing that life took. I imagined the Earth’s magnetic pulses seducing the liquid iron from my heart, through my veins and pores as little red rivers between pale shores, through the carpet and the wood, into the concrete and the clay beneath my feet, then back to her core. That’s where she keeps it all, our histories and moments. We all boil down to bloody magma. That is how she keeps us warm. She is relentless.

I knew that here was home because the air hinted that a meal was in the oven. I knew the woman outside the dining room window was my mother although I can’t remember birth. Bright and dim white spots in the air reflected sunlight like ghostly glass shards dancing through the room between the chandelier and the mirror.

Mom always liked the windows open, except for the living room one which was just one big pane of glass that framed our street and the neighbor’s house. The house smelled like wind, felt like wind. The eyes of the house were always open, as an invitation or an escape route. Both, perhaps. I would find out some day. Jazz was always on the record player, but only with the windows open. It was as if she was sending a signal, like a lighthouse. Music doesn’t sound the same with the windows closed.

From the center of the living room, I watched my mother in the back yard, through the white spots in the dining room and windy jazz, out through the back window. She unhooked white linens from wooden clothespins. But she didn’t just remove the sheet. She held the cloth, rocked with it, but not like a child. To her they were someone, holding her and rocking her in return. Clothespins perched on the wire clothesline observed the performance. Springing from the knees she spun around and held the sheet draped in front of her so all I could see was her fingers pinching the corners. The cool white cotton defied the sun and cupped the breeze like a sail. The air pulled a corner from one hand, twisting it gently away from her. This gave her a shy smile. She reeled it back in to her and closed her eyes when she smelled it. Mom loved to dance.

Folding that tall white flag in half against her chest her glance met mine. She stretched the sheet over the bridge of her nose, across her face so I could only see the top half of it. Her grey eyes broke my heart when they smiled at me. It was a desperate, loyal smile, one that promised to hold you while the world was cracking open under your feet.

But her eyes stopped smiling. Her brows pulled her lashes and lids open wide. Her pupils twitched scans up and down my body. Her chest inflated, shoulders dropped, heels spun, and she ran out of view with the sheet waving behind her. I forgot that I was bleeding.
The metal storm door clicked and clanged. Glass rattled when it hissed shut. I heard her feet slide and pound on the kitchen floor like the drums slapping from the record player. Her long strides split her floral print robe open like silk curtains. Through the white sun sparks in the dining room, she veered toward me, the linen sheet behind her waving to escape out the back window. Dropping to her knees in front me, both hands clung to my shoulders. We were face to face. There was nothing I could say. She looked down at the blood outlining a red moat around my feet and toes. Her eyes shot back up to mine. Quick inhaled breaths flared her nostrils. Terror clenched her jaw. She looked like she saw the world cracking beneath me. The only thing I could find to say was, “Don’t look Mommy. Don’t look.”

That just seemed to make it worse. She wrapped the white sheet around me. Her warm arms and sweaty palms pressed the cool cotton against me like kneading paws. It felt good. Somehow I didn’t feel any pain. Or maybe I did, but at this point in my life I didn’t know that pain was a bad thing. This may be the best I have ever felt, but how would I know.

The small of my back, then the middle, then the top started to pour out blood from hundreds of little slices all starting to weep one after another. I could feel them stain the cloth like red stars on a white sky. One by one they wept, becoming shooting stars. She held me and the bleeding stars in the white sky. She held everything in place. I felt like I belonged there, to whatever world on which I had just landed. She was holding her breath, and me and the white sky so tightly like she was trying to stop time. Maybe she did. The sky was turning red now. The wooden birds on the clothesline watched us. One hung upside down. They were getting a good show today.

I could feel her look at her hands behind my back. I could feel her shock, fibers stiffened in her body, she froze to stop from shaking. A forearm swept up between my legs, her palm pressed my belly, cradling me through the other arm as my mother lunged up to her feet. Bouncing down the hallway, feet first, she lassoed me at my waist, and I watched my bloody footprints in the rug drift further away until we hooked into the bathroom. The jazz only echoed a murmur in here. I got swung into the other arm then onto her hip. Mom moved quickly, but not panicked, like it was standard operating procedure. It reminded me that she was a nurse in the war. This must be how the wounded soldiers felt, being dragged away and repaired like a piece of machinery. She reached for a rusty green box with a red cross on the wall hung by a nail. Rattling the tin box from the wall and the nail with it, she shook open the clasp and dumped the contents into the sink. The nail pinged on the tile floor. The tin box entrails clanged as she reached in and dug through them: thin long limbed scissors, short pointed scissors, white paper medical tape, sheer white strips of cloth, dark glassed jars with green tin lids.

She sat on the toilet lid and unfolded me, belly first over her lap and uncovered me. The corners of the sheet fell to my sides so I could see red freckled cloth. The air from the small bathroom window felt cool on my back. I turned my neck to watch her. She pushed me back around and said, “No.” Eyes back down to the ground, I heard the faucet run, then warm drops were wrung onto my back. Pink water ran from my shoulders, down my arms, dripping off the tip of my finger onto the floor, resting in the white trenches between the ceramic tiles. The tiny bulbs of water gathered together in the grout like lanes of wet traffic. I made up stories about how I ended up here. Maybe I was a puppet, a marionette, and someone cut my strings. I landed down on this stage when the Devil ripped those strings from my back. Sure, that’s how I got here. Or maybe God is just bored. Bored enough to stick pins into this pin cushion not knowing that I am inside. Maybe He does know I’m in here. And, maybe, that’s the point. I know there is a God but I don’t remember why I know that, and now I know that the world is his pin cushion and we are stuffed inside.

The warm towel pressed against my back then slid down to my legs. The air felt cool again when it passed. Then a new, cold liquid stung every single opening. Stings like gasoline in papercuts rushed through me. It smelled like it too. Sucking air and spit through my clenched teeth I turned around. She pushed my head back down again, “Stop it.” I looked at the liquid trickling down my arm again. This time it wasn’t pink. It was clear. “That’s a good sign,” I thought.

From the living room the record hissed and crackled. I kept quiet so I could hear the neighborhood world outside. A trashcan clanged. Lawn mowing blades chirped as they reeled. Parents screamed at each other from inside the middle of other houses. A train went by on the Pennsylvania railroad; I could feel the rumble whisper through me and the bathroom. It was trying to tell me where it was going but I couldn’t understand it. The warm cloth dragged over my back once more then dabbed pressure on each cut. 

Fingertipped scoops of cold thick jelly tapped gentle dabs on my back. After this I heard a different sound. The metal scissors plucked from the sink. Snip. Snip. This sound spun a tornado in my belly. I don’t know why but it did. She rested her wrists on the small of my back, “You’re gonna feel a pinch now, a bunch of ‘em. Just like this.” She pinched my skin with her fingernails. “Then tugs.” She stretched my skin in her pinched fingers. “A buncha those. Hear Me? Don’t be scared. Okay?” I nodded my head yes and inhaled deeply.
She started singing her favorite hymn. I don’t know why but I remembered that Mom only sang this song when something bad happened or was about to. This made my belly feel like a tornado spinning full of angry moths up into my throat.

Snip.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
Pinch.
And He tells me I am His own;
Tug.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
Pinch.
None other has ever known.
Tug.
Snip.

Her voice was like the white linen sheet in the wind. Thousands of fine threaded vibrations dancing in the air. She always sounded the same no matter how bad things were. It softened the pinches and tugs. Now I was being laced up like a marionette. Maybe I am a puppet after all. What plays could I be in now that I am restrung? I think I’ll be an actor one day.

Every time I asked how much longer, she told me five more minutes. She wasn’t lying, technically. It was a lot of sets of five more minutes. Dusk dimmed through the bathroom window. I pretended I was a boot, a soldier’s, being laced up. She stitched the wounds from my neck all the way down to my feet. My skin felt tied tight. She sat me up on her lap and started unrolling the white gauze around my neck, under my arms, across my chest. Now I am a mummy, a mummy with black boots. These boots smell a lot like smoke. I looked up at the bathroom window. A bobbing grey cloud sneaked up to it, winding out like the ghost of a snake. Mom stopped singing. Her hands paused. She looked up too, smelled the air, and swept me away again.

Bouncing down the hall, I watched the half used gauze roll unravel behind us, tethering us to the bathroom. The smoke got thicker as we ran in between the dining and living rooms, passed the red footprints, even thicker as we got to the kitchen, the gauze umbilical cord still intact. She sat me down on the floor, a half-naked mummy, at the threshold of the kitchen. She ran in.

Sheets of smoke huffed out of the top of the oven and through the four spiraled burners on top, to the ceiling, settling in a congregation of herding puffy smoke. The bent nook of her arm covered the bottom of her face like the sheet did in the backyard. I covered my face too. Mom reached in for the oven handle and reflexed back from the heat. As she turned her head back she saw my shielded face. She ran over to me, shifting out of her robe and sliding to the floor on her knees in front of me. Sweat dotted her face. She put the robe in my hands and pressed them to my face, “Stay.” I stayed, although my tornadoed guts told me I should go help her. 

Smoke flooded out of the dining room window. The ceiling was striped black. Without her robe, Mom was stripped right down to her white bloomers. Rushing back to the kitchen, she took a dish rag from the sink, this time using it as a glove to heave open the oven door. Braided fingers of golden red flames twisted out, jagged, at her. Soot clung to the sweat on her red cheeks. She jerked back, her body reflecting the amber glow. The glowing claws hissed and cracked at her. She reached straight back, with both bloody hands, ripping the copper fire can off the wall along with the nail.

There she was. My mom, the firefighting nurse. Her legs planted wide like a baseball batter. Ash slashed across her face like warpaint. The copper can reflected the white fire glow on the front side. I saw my own distorted reflection in it. Heat smothered the house. From where I was sitting she was shaped like a five pointed star in knickers, sweat matted black hair at the top, bent right elbow stretching the handle back like a bicycle pump, left hand holding the can out like a shotgun pump, two white legs stretched out at the bottom. She pressed the handle into the can. Pressurized liquid shot from the reservoir into the oven, stinging the flames. The fire winced then clawed back out at her. She cocked and pushed again with tight white knuckles until the brass handle clicked. Fire shrieked back vengeance at her this time. She pumped the handle again. The fire hissed back. Her muscles twisted and pumped the handle back and forward. The blaze cowered. Again. She fought faster. White, yellow, and orange wisps twitched, flickers shrank back into a sopping black ball, crackling in the black pan on the center rack. Pop. Pop, along with the record player.

The can dropped, ringing empty down to the floor with the nail. Her feet back-pedalled to the wall opposite the oven, still watching the oven for signs of blaze. She slid her back down the wall to sit, then rested her arms on her knees and exhaled. I still had the silk robe over my face. Together, we stared at the solidified lava mass in the black pan. If God was bored he sure isn’t now. She chuckled to herself without smiling which also looked like she might cry.

Rolling the back of her head against the wall she turned to me. Something about the way she squeezed her brows together told me that she didn’t sign up for this. Her stillness said that she had been through worse. Her pale eyes pleaded with me, begged me to trust her. I dropped the robe from my face to show that I did. She had no idea that on that day she became my hero. I should have told her that.

Her dyed hands slapped against the floor. She pushed herself up on all fours then crawled over to me. My mom was resilient. Her face was still soft and playful under the sweat and battle dust. She dropped her shoulders and put her forehead to mine, “Catbird.” That’s what she called me, mostly when she needed to hear it more than I did. She reeled in the trail of gauze leading down the hall to the bathroom and finished wrapping me. Her red and black wet hands stained the white threaded mesh. A perfect C shaped scar arched just above the nail on her right index finger. This must be what the soldiers saw when her healing fingertips reached from under the Army uniformed sleeves.

Bandaged in gauze and wrapped in her peony printed robe she swept me up and over to the olive green velvet sofa in front of the glass window. Charred small holes speckled the cushions from glowing tobacco ash that fell from Dad’s pipe. The dark wood legs always snapped a little when we sat on it. We were chest to chest. She held me and sang.
My chin resting on her shoulder, I watched ladybug on the window, a floating red island. It was bare, blank. I made up stories about where its black spots went, probably where life keeps its collection of stolen things, at the center of the earth. It reminded me of the drops of blood on the white sheet, but a walking red droplet with big white eyes and black antennae picking up radio waves from the air. Maybe we listen to the same shows. It flew off. I wondered if it ever fell and what it would be like to fall when all along you know you can fly.

I looked across the street to where the Prokoriev’s lived. We just called them the P’s. They’re Russian. Sometimes I’d watch them glide on the planks of their porch swing (which creaked like our couch but in a different way). Their son Peter, Peter Perseus Prokoriev, and I were born exactly one day apart in the same place, Holy Spirit hospital. I liked sharing a birthday with him. He hated it, the fact that I was always right on his heels. We used to belong to the same church until we stopped going. I asked Mom why we stopped going. She always answered, “Because the holy water burned me.” She said that’s how she got the scarred C on her finger. But I think we really stopped going because of Dad.

“What happened sweetie? Can you tell Mommy what happened?”
I just ummed and twisted my lips from side to side.
“Mommy needs to know.”
I needed to know too. She was supposed to know everything. But I guess she did enough for one day.
“Don’t know.”
“Think real hard, Ford.” That’s the name she called me when things were serious, my real name. She called me Tiger when everything was peachy which wasn’t too often.

“I think --”

“You think what?” She perked up straight, took me from her shoulder and waited eagerly, attentive. She ruffled my shoulders and looked me straight in the eyes. I started a sentence I didn’t know how to finish.

“Well? You think what?” Her eyes tensed like beams pulling from me an answer. “What is it?”

I had to produce a response but I had no information to offer. I tried to remember. It was like trying to hold on too tightly to a greasy dream that keeps writhing away deeper, back into memory.

“I think. That. Um. God. Was just bored?” I arched my eyebrows, in suspense, waiting for her approval.

She closed her eyes slowly, her top lashes rested on her cheeks, inhaling with her chest and shoulders. She was disappointed. She needed an answer. I couldn’t give it to her. Her chest pumped with the start of a chuckle. Her lips bowed up slightly, puffing her cheeks, squeezing her eyes. She pointed her head down so I could only see the top of it. It was the moment before someone is about to open the flood gates of laughter or tears. You brace yourself for both.

“Don’t cry, Mom. It’s okay. I’ll help.” I didn’t know how to help but I knew she needed some right now.

Then, short waves of laughing air came in puffs through her nose, from her throat and stomach. Her shoulders trembled up and down. The corners of her mouth turned up to meet the corners of her eyes. Her jaw heaved open like the oven door and laughter rushed out at me like the flames. The flood gates opened. Springs of water surrounded me and leaked into my own eyes and ears and nose and mouth so I started laughing too. It was like we were holding hands, without embracing, in the middle of a tsunami. We cried laughing until our souls fainted, because we weren't supposed to and because we had to. Her laugh bounced and snorted and squeezed her eyes like the sea had been dammed up since Genesis. That was the happiest I would ever see my mother.

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Reason Number Three

The massive concrete door pushed open and Stanley stepped inside. The light fixtures flickered yellow, allowing just enough light to light up the corners of the room. Scattered across the floor and hanging on the walls were tapestries. Unevenly cut cloth embodied to depict from mountain scenes to specific people. At the far end of the room, sat the prisoner. Her hands held her newest project, her unsettlingly graceful movements poking the needle through the fabric ever few moments.

She looked up. Stanley shivered. Her dark, lifeless eyes found his and she smiled.

“You’re new.” she continued sewing.

“Yes.”

“They told you about me?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, that’s why you’re petrified.”

Stanley sat on a small wooden stool right next to the door. He watched her weave the string through the fabric, her motions deliberate and calm.

“They don’t let me use scissors. I have to bite the strings.”

When Stanley didn’t respond she stopped working and looked straight at him.

“May I have scissors?”

“I wasn't born yesterday, no, you can’t have scissors.”

She grinned, picking her needle back up. “Just testing you.”

“What are you embroidering?”

“A face.”

“Whose face?”

“Herbert Hoover.”

“What?”

“I’ve already done the first 30 presidents. He’s 31st.”

She gestured to the wall, Stanley raised his eyebrows at the images. “You remember the faces of all of the presidents well enough to embroid them?”

“Yes. You don’t?”

Steven leaned back against the cell door, surprise flooding his face. He scanned the walls and floors, finding the detailed and accurate tapestries everywhere.

“You’re very good at that.”

“Thank you.”

“How’d you convince them for the materials?”

She grinned. “It’s a life sentence. I have unique needs.”

Stanley nodded, continuing to survey the embroidery.

“You can look at it all closer, if you like. I didn’t put details in to go unnoticed.”

Stanley stood up from his stool, hesitantly making his way closer to the display. The bits of cloth were reluctantly hung with hot glue, clearly put there by an officer. Stanley’s eye caught on a depiction of a park. He moved closer to it, tracing the string with his finger. He saw where the strings disappeared and became a people sitting in lawn, where the dark blue became the night sky.

Suddenly, he felt watched. He remembered protocol—‘Don’t Stand Within Five Feet Of Prisoner’— he turned his head, expecting her to lunge. Instead, he found her staring at him, not moving, with a look of pure amusement on her face.

“Well, aren’t you bold.” For the first time, Stanley heard the chains around her wrists clink. He staggered back to the stool in a panic, thinking she’d moved to attack, but she just sat there.

“Jesus, I was just getting a new string. What did the big guys say about me? I’m rather offended.” She bit the string in half.

Stanley didn’t say anything, his heart still beating fast from his overreaction.

“I bet they told you very foggy facts about me. I bet they told you what I did, but not how I did it. That got your imagination running wild.”

Stanley stared back at her. She wasn’t smiling, or even grinning, just talking to him.

“Well, if you have any questions for me, go ahead and ask. Let me clear away some fog. Lord knows I have a lifetime to tell you.”

Stanley nibbled at his finger nails. “Why’d you do it?”

“Too vague.”

“I think you can answer why—“

“No, too vague.” Her voice echoed in the cell. Her arms now crossed, her project on the floor beside her.

“What’s your name?”

“Stanley.”

“Let me ask you something, Stanley.” She emphasized his name, mocking his apparent ignorance.

“How did you get here?”

“I took a bus.”

“No, I mean, how did you get to this point in your life?”

“Well, there’s a lot of different factors—“

“Exactly. There isn’t just one ‘why’ for anything.”

“Just hang on a second,” Stanley pointed at the prisoner on the floor in front of him. “Don’t you say that my situation is anything like yours, because it’s not.”

She glared at him for a few moments. Then she smiled. “Oh, it’s so similar, Stanley. All of the factors in your life that made you, those reasons, are the same sort of factors that made me a murderer.”

Stanley twitched.

“What, too blunt for you? You don’t want to believe that I had a life too, that I’m a person?” Her chains clanked.

“Just go back to your embroidering, I shouldn’t have asked.”

“How can I go back to that boring stuff while I’m having such an impassioned conversation with you?”

“I can get people in here within moments to take these pictures down, would you like that?”

She scowled at Stanley before picking up her cloth again, continuing to stitch. Stanley watched her, noticing the needle slip into her thumb a few times, blood dripping onto Hoover’s face. She never flinched.

After several minutes of silence, she cleared her throat. “Do you like dogs, Stanley?”

“Where did that come from?”

“Do you?”

He nodded, confused.

“Good. I would’ve had to kill you otherwise.” She burst into laughter, realizing soon after that Stanley hadn’t laughed with her.

“I won’t kill you, Stanley. I like you. I can tell you’re a good person.

“Gee, thanks.”

“Well, I had a dog. This massive Rottweiler. I must’ve been about three when my mom gave him to me. I called him Jerky.”

She stopped to bite her string.

“What happened to him?”

“My stepdad.”

She looked directly at Stanley. “Reason number one.”

Stanley rubbed at his neck.

“Twenty years later, I set a police dog on him. A Rottweiler named Beef.”

Stanley almost laughed, watching her place the embroidery on the floor and try to lay down. A flurry of clanking arose from her chains as she got comfortable, eventually fading back into the quiet of the cell.

“How many reasons are there?”

“Oh, if we sit here long enough, I can come up with millions.”

“So what’s reason number two?”

She glanced over to Stanley, surprised. “You want to know?”

“Sure.”

“OK, several years after the Jerky incident, I was raped.”

Stanley’s face lost color.

“Oh, don’t worry. I won’t say anything else. That’s usually the story that gets the guards to quit.” She shifted so she lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling.

“Must be some story.”

“Anyway, reason numero dos.” She held out two fingers. “Tell your boss that if he really wants to stop the criminals, he has to stop what drives them.”

Stanley studied the woman on the floor. Even from far away he could see the bruises that coiled her ankles and wrists, surrounded by locked iron chains.

“I would give you more ‘reasons,’ but I don’t want to.”

“OK.”

“I’ll wait to say more until tomorrow, then.”

Stanley breathed. “May I tell a reason?”

She sat up, surprised. “Sure.”

“About eight years ago, I was visiting home from college. I was an only son, and apparently while I was away my parents had a bad case of empty-nest syndrome. I came home to a baby sister.”

She chuckled. “Her name?”

“Sofia.”

“Sweet.”

“A few nights later, my dad took Sofia to a park. You bombed them.”

The two stared at each other. Her face unreadable.

“Reason number one.”

“That’s a good ‘why.’” she whispered. Then a grin rose to her face. “This is interesting. Oh, you see? We’re more alike than you think.”

“Shut up.”

“No, can’t you see? All of the things you went through to become my guard, so tedious. But why?”

She grinned wider, Stanley clenched his jaw. “You want to kill me. I don’t blame you.”

“Why them? What’s your reason for my father, your reason for my baby sister?”

“Calm down, Stanley. I did my research. I must admit, the bomb was a special touch. You see, I’m not usually an explosive kind of gal, but I needed the ‘last hurrah’ feel—“

Stanley shot out of his seat and grasped her neck in one motion. Their noses touched, their teeth bared, eyes piercing daggers into each other.

“Go on, Stanley. Squeeze and we’ll switch places. I’ll be rid of these chains and you’ll be in them.”

A rush of commotion could be heard from outside the cell. The keypad beeping as Stanley’s boss slapped in the code. Stanley dropped the girl’s neck. He turned to face the door. The cell opened to the chief officer pointing a gun.

“We’re all right, mister, I’ve got it under control.” She flashed a sweet smile.

“Stanley, to my office. Now.” Stanley followed his boss down the corridor.

“You’re fired.”

“I quit.”

“I need your badge, your holster, and the keys back, please.”

Stanley moved to remove his badge when the chief stopped him.

“Where are your keys?”

“What?”

“Keys. The keys to the chains in case she needed the restroom. Why aren’t they on your belt?”

The two of them rushed back to the cell, finding only a pile of empty chains and the embroidered park placed carefully on the stool.

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Reason Number Three


The massive concrete door pushed open and Stanley stepped inside. The light fixtures flickered yellow, allowing just enough light to light up the corners of the room. Scattered across the floor and hanging on the walls were tapestries. Unevenly cut cloth embodied to depict from mountain scenes to specific people. At the far end of the room, sat the prisoner. Her hands held her newest project, her unsettlingly graceful movements poking the needle through the fabric ever few moments.
She looked up. Stanley shivered. Her dark, lifeless eyes found his and she smiled.
“You’re new.” she continued sewing.
“Yes.”
“They told you about me?”
“Yes.”
“Ah, that’s why you’re petrified.”
Stanley sat on a small wooden stool right next to the door. He watched her weave the string through the fabric, her motions deliberate and calm.
“They don’t let me use scissors. I have to bite the strings.”
When Stanley didn’t respond she stopped working and looked straight at him.
“May I have scissors?”
“I wasn't born yesterday, no, you can’t have scissors.”
She grinned, picking her needle back up. “Just testing you.”
“What are you embroidering?”
“A face.”
“Whose face?”
“Herbert Hoover.”
“What?”
“I’ve already done the first 30 presidents. He’s 31st.”
She gestured to the wall, Stanley raised his eyebrows at the images. “You remember the faces of all of the presidents well enough to embroid them?”
“Yes. You don’t?”
Steven leaned back against the cell door, surprise flooding his face. He scanned the walls and floors, finding the detailed and accurate tapestries everywhere.
“You’re very good at that.”
“Thank you.”
“How’d you convince them for the materials?”
She grinned. “It’s a life sentence. I have unique needs.”
Stanley nodded, continuing to survey the embroidery.
“You can look at it all closer, if you like. I didn’t put details in to go unnoticed.”
Stanley stood up from his stool, hesitantly making his way closer to the display. The bits of cloth were reluctantly hung with hot glue, clearly put there by an officer. Stanley’s eye caught on a depiction of a park. He moved closer to it, tracing the string with his finger. He saw where the strings disappeared and became a people sitting in lawn, where the dark blue became the night sky.
Suddenly, he felt watched. He remembered protocol—‘Don’t Stand Within Five Feet Of Prisoner’— he turned his head, expecting her to lunge. Instead, he found her staring at him, not moving, with a look of pure amusement on her face.
“Well, aren’t you bold.” For the first time, Stanley heard the chains around her wrists clink. He staggered back to the stool in a panic, thinking she’d moved to attack, but she just sat there.
“Jesus, I was just getting a new string. What did the big guys say about me? I’m rather offended.” She bit the string in half.
Stanley didn’t say anything, his heart still beating fast from his overreaction.
“I bet they told you very foggy facts about me. I bet they told you what I did, but not how I did it. That got your imagination running wild.”
Stanley stared back at her. She wasn’t smiling, or even grinning, just talking to him.
“Well, if you have any questions for me, go ahead and ask. Let me clear away some fog. Lord knows I have a lifetime to tell you.”
Stanley nibbled at his finger nails. “Why’d you do it?”
“Too vague.”
“I think you can answer why—“
“No, too vague.” Her voice echoed in the cell. Her arms now crossed, her project on the floor beside her.
“What’s your name?”
“Stanley.”
“Let me ask you something, Stanley.” She emphasized his name, mocking his apparent ignorance.
“How did you get here?”
“I took a bus.”
“No, I mean, how did you get to this point in your life?”
“Well, there’s a lot of different factors—“
“Exactly. There isn’t just one ‘why’ for anything.”
“Just hang on a second,” Stanley pointed at the prisoner on the floor in front of him. “Don’t you say that my situation is anything like yours, because it’s not.”
She glared at him for a few moments. Then she smiled. “Oh, it’s so similar, Stanley. All of the factors in your life that made you, those reasons, are the same sort of factors that made me a murderer.”
Stanley twitched.
“What, too blunt for you? You don’t want to believe that I had a life too, that I’m a person?” Her chains clanked.
“Just go back to your embroidering, I shouldn’t have asked.”
“How can I go back to that boring stuff while I’m having such an impassioned conversation with you?”
“I can get people in here within moments to take these pictures down, would you like that?”
She scowled at Stanley before picking up her cloth again, continuing to stitch. Stanley watched her, noticing the needle slip into her thumb a few times, blood dripping onto Hoover’s face. She never flinched.
After several minutes of silence, she cleared her throat. “Do you like dogs, Stanley?”
“Where did that come from?”
“Do you?”
He nodded, confused.
“Good. I would’ve had to kill you otherwise.” She burst into laughter, realizing soon after that Stanley hadn’t laughed with her.
“I won’t kill you, Stanley. I like you. I can tell you’re a good person.
“Gee, thanks.”
“Well, I had a dog. This massive Rottweiler. I must’ve been about three when my mom gave him to me. I called him Jerky.”
She stopped to bite her string.
“What happened to him?”
“My stepdad.”
She looked directly at Stanley. “Reason number one.”
Stanley rubbed at his neck.
“Twenty years later, I set a police dog on him. A Rottweiler named Beef.”
Stanley almost laughed, watching her place the embroidery on the floor and try to lay down. A flurry of clanking arose from her chains as she got comfortable, eventually fading back into the quiet of the cell.
“How many reasons are there?”
“Oh, if we sit here long enough, I can come up with millions.”
“So what’s reason number two?”
She glanced over to Stanley, surprised. “You want to know?”
“Sure.”
“OK, several years after the Jerky incident, I was raped.”
Stanley’s face lost color.
“Oh, don’t worry. I won’t say anything else. That’s usually the story that gets the guards to quit.” She shifted so she lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling.
“Must be some story.”
“Anyway, reason numero dos.” She held out two fingers. “Tell your boss that if he really wants to stop the criminals, he has to stop what drives them.”
Stanley studied the woman on the floor. Even from far away he could see the bruises that coiled her ankles and wrists, surrounded by locked iron chains.
“I would give you more ‘reasons,’ but I don’t want to.”
“OK.”
“I’ll wait to say more until tomorrow, then.”
Stanley breathed. “May I tell a reason?”
She sat up, surprised. “Sure.”
“About eight years ago, I was visiting home from college. I was an only son, and apparently while I was away my parents had a bad case of empty-nest syndrome. I came home to a baby sister.”
She chuckled. “Her name?”
“Sofia.”
“Sweet.”
“A few nights later, my dad took Sofia to a park. You bombed them.”
The two stared at each other. Her face unreadable.
“Reason number one.”
“That’s a good ‘why.’” she whispered. Then a grin rose to her face. “This is interesting. Oh, you see? We’re more alike than you think.”
“Shut up.”
“No, can’t you see? All of the things you went through to become my guard, so tedious. But why?”
She grinned wider, Stanley clenched his jaw. “You want to kill me. I don’t blame you.”
“Why them? What’s your reason for my father, your reason for my baby sister?”
“Calm down, Stanley. I did my research. I must admit, the bomb was a special touch. You see, I’m not usually an explosive kind of gal, but I needed the ‘last hurrah’ feel—“
Stanley shot out of his seat and grasped her neck in one motion. Their noses touched, their teeth bared, eyes piercing daggers into each other.
“Go on, Stanley. Squeeze and we’ll switch places. I’ll be rid of these chains and you’ll be in them.”
A rush of commotion could be heard from outside the cell. The keypad beeping as Stanley’s boss slapped in the code. Stanley dropped the girl’s neck. He turned to face the door. The cell opened to the chief officer pointing a gun.
“We’re all right, mister, I’ve got it under control.” She flashed a sweet smile.
“Stanley, to my office. Now.” Stanley followed his boss down the corridor.
“You’re fired.”
“I quit.”
“I need your badge, your holster, and the keys back, please.”
Stanley moved to remove his badge when the chief stopped him.
“Where are your keys?”
“What?”
“Keys. The keys to the chains in case she needed the restroom. Why aren’t they on your belt?”
The two of them rushed back to the cell, finding only a pile of empty chains and the embroidered park placed carefully on the stool.

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Walking the Press

CHAPTER ONE

“You know, the sooner you begin to talk, the sooner you'll begin to heal. "

Francesca had been sitting in the same spot just looking around. She wondered if it was even worth speaking to anyone about her inner thoughts. Was it worth telling someone so beautiful about how ugly she felt? She thought about getting up and walking out but since she'd already paid for the visit, she figured she may as well say something. 

Scoffing at Dr. Anthony’s previous comment, she continued to look around the dimly lit office just a little bit longer, just thinking about finally getting some healing.  She’d long ago lost count of how many times she had prayed for healing. Yet time and time again, her prayers seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. She'd tried so hard to hold on to her faith and for some reason, one she really could not explain, she really loved the Lord and could not seem to cut Him out of her life. No matter how many times it looked as if He was ignoring her, she held on to even the smallest glimmer of hope that He was listening. She had tried numerous time to just give up on believing God heard her prayers or that He would even bother to answer them. Yet, she hung around the church hoping that one day healing would just find her. Francesca hoped and prayed with her heart of hearts that one day the pain would just go away. But, there was no such luck. The pain never left. Even when her tears dried up, pain stayed in the back of her mind patiently awaiting the day to remind her of its existence. And unfortunately for Francesca, pain was too set on familiarizing her with its strength. After her fourth anxiety attack in the matter of weeks, she decided to seek professional help outside of the church. So, there she sat in Dr. Anthony’s intricately designed office just looking around and distracting herself with the beautiful autumn inspired decorations all around the room.

Dr. Anthony sensed Francesca’s hesitation and decided to lead the conversation. 

“Francesca I can’t help you if you won’t tell me what’s wrong.”

“Hmmm…” Frankie thought out loud. “Tell you what’s wrong. Well Dr. Anthony everything’s wrong. But before we get into that, do you know why I chose you to counsel me?”

Frankie’s superior attitude had been present since she walked into Dr. Anthony’s office. Zuri Anthony wasn’t one to be made to feel small. However, instead of getting defensive, Dr. Anthony decided to play cool.

“Um no Francesca. No I do not. Care to tell me.”

“Well, the answer is very simple. I saw a problem. Actually I saw many problems and I decided I need help. However, I didn’t want help from just any old counselor. No, I needed someone with faith, family, and familiarity. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but you are a Sunday school teacher. Am I right?”

Dr. Anthony was baffled by Frankie’s boldness but nonetheless, she answered her question.

“Yes, I am. But…”

“And, you’re a married mother of two. Correct?”

“Correct. But what does that have…”

“The only thing left is familiarity. And it was hard to find any similarities between the two of us. You were born with a silver spoon and I was born with plastic. You’re married with a beautiful family. I’m single, solo. You are so beautiful and well loved. I’m plain little ole me. Just little neglected and rejected me. However, if my research serves me correctly, I do believe you once saw a therapist of your own. Wasn’t it because you were just one  panic attack away from a nervous breakdown or something like that?”

Shocked and ashamed,  Dr. Anthony held her head down. It was true. She had once sought out a therapist to get rid of the constant pain and fear that were invading her mind. But it dawned on her. If Francesca called her little breakdown familiar then surely Frankie must be having panic attacks also. 

“That’s true also Francesca. I did have a mental break while I was still in college. Is that why you’re here today? Are you having your own mental breakdown?” Dr. Anthony asked with a look of concern.

Usually, it was easy for Frankie to keep up her brave face. But for some reason, hearing her greatest imperfection from the mouth of someone far more superior than she humbled her. Once again, her false bravado failed her. Frankie’s heart was breaking. If the one person she paid to not have pity on her was sitting before her with such pity, then surely everyone else in her life pitied her.

The look of sorrow in Francesca’s eyes baffled Dr. Anthony. Mere seconds before, Francesca’s nose was in the air and her eyes were cast down. How could one of such confidence be diminished to such pity so quickly?

“I practiced over and over what I would say if I was ever given the chance. Would I confess all of my weaknesses? Would I scream? Would I cry? And now that I’m here, I find myself questioning if it’s even worth talking to you. I mean is it even worth telling someone as beautiful as you how ugly I really fell inside? Is it worth explaining to you the painful art of accepting rejection? I have just one question for you Doc. Have you ever been rejected by anyone in your life?”

Although she didn’t see the importance of her history, Dr. Anthony decided to play along.

“Yeah I guess you can say I’ve been rejected before. You know Francesca, some of my exes actually broke up with me. There was one relationship that I found extremely hard to lose. But what does that have to do with how you’re feeling?”

“Honestly, I really prefer not to share my most heartbreaking thoughts with someone who doesn’t understand. Nevertheless, I just really need to tell someone how I really feel. I mean I really need to be heard and not judged. I figured I would have to get help sooner or later considering I’ve had four anxiety attacks. It may as well be sooner.”

Francesca inhaled deeply then exhaled slowly. She was ready to finally bare her soul to someone. She was tired of not being healed.

“Do me a quick favor,” she began. “Think of all of the art you know. I’m talking about every form of art. The music, the paintings, the poetry, dance, acting. Think of it all. Now, think of your favorite artist. Hopefully you have a favorite in each category. Do you ever wonder how much does she or he suffers? How much did she or he have to suffer to be as great as she or he is? Do you ever think of the sufferings of an artist? Or, are you one of those people who believe that art is easy- that anyone can just create? Honestly, have you ever thought about why music and poetry and dance and movies and even paintings have so much emotion? I’m certain that art is possessed by the soul of the artist. It’s been said that beauty knows no pain. And I believe art is one of the most painful beauties of this world.”

Frankie’s little rant confused Dr. Anthony. What did it matter how the doctor saw art? Frankie’s appointment was meant to be spent talking about her. And so far, she’d done everything but stay on topic. Fortunately, Dr. Anthony was a patient woman and knew if she wanted Francesca to open up she would have to make her feel comfortable. And if answering a few questions would make Frankie comfortable then so be it. 

“Well,” Dr. Anthony began. “I believe that beauty itself is pain.”

“Beauty itself is pain,” Frankie said interrupting Dr. Anthony. “Do tell, Doc.”

“We search the world looking for things and people that we behold to be beautiful. Each of us living up to someone else’s standards of beauty. But what really is beautiful? I believe since there is no one answer to that question, most people hurt themselves, willing to die even, just to try to be someone else's  version of beauty. Beauty is pain.”

“Someone else's version of beauty. Well Doc to be honest, I think my problem is I gave up on seeing beauty in people. And you seem to believe that’s where most look for beauty. I’m talking about the product. Not the person. What makes words beautiful? What makes pictures beautiful? What makes a building beautiful? I don’t care about what makes people beautiful!”

Francesca was so frustrated. For a second, just one split second, she thought Dr. Anthony understood. She thought Dr. Anthony could actually look at art and see the pain. She thought for one second someone could understand her. But no such luck.

“Francesca if you would just calm down and explain to me why you are really here, then maybe I can help you.”

Frankie thought about the answer to the Dr.’s question for a minute.

“I’m here because I have nothing. Nothing but this stupid voice in my head that will not go away. I hear it when I’m in a crowd, when I’m all alone, when I’m at work. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing. This voice in my head just won’t leave me alone.”

Her voice cracked. She officially broke down. She sat in her seat and patiently waited for the judgement to come. Whenever she had confided in family or friends, there was always judgement. Surely it would show up at that moment.

“Francesca listen to me. I can help you. But you need to let your guard down and trust me. Throwing tantrums when I don’t respond the way you think I should will not help. You have to trust me.”

Trust her? Dr. Anthony had no idea how comical she sounded to Francesca. Francesca had a hard time trusting her own parents let alone some superficial doctor who only saw beauty in people. But she thought about it once again. She'd already paid for her current session with the doctor, so she decided she may as well entertain herself. Exhaling, she decided to let go of some of her fears and invite someone into the inner workings of her mind. 

"Ever since I could remember, " she began. "There has been this nagging voice in the back of my mind. When I was little,  my mother would tell me it was just my imagination. She tried her best to explain to me that everyone goes through a short phase were it feels like someone is speaking with them. She called it an imaginary friend. As a child, I felt I had no choice but to believe her.  She's my mother. Surely she wouldn't lie to me about something so frightening. Well, slowly I learned to embrace my imaginary friend. I even learned to on love her. I named her Tarra. We were inseparable. She was there all throughout my childhood as my best friend,  as my only friend. There was nothing or no one that could change how I felt about Tarra."

Francesca paused to clear her mind. Thinking about the once  close relationship she'd  had with the voice that's now haunting her both day and night was beginning to overwhelm her. 

Just as Dr. Anthony was about to speak, Francesca continued.

"For a few years,  I really thought I was n I real and that there was no problem in having a friend that no one else could hear but me. After all, my mother had reassured me I was okay when I was little. So why did she  change the rules when I got older?" Francesca stopped to catch the few tears that were threatening  to fall.

"I was in the second grade, only y eight years old when she told me it was time for my friendship with Tarra to come to an  end. I can still remember the day she sat me down. 'Frankie,' she said. 'There comes a time in everyone's  life when imaginary friends must be traded in for real friends.'"

"It was so hard for me to understand. At first she told me it was okay to have Tarra, a strange voice that was always there to help me create beautiful stories and poems. Then she told me it was time I outgrow Tarra,the strange voice that carried me through scary thunderstorms and awful Meatloaf Mondays. I wasn't ready to just let go.m Tarra understood me, she was there for me in Kindergarten when Kierney Thompson pushed me off the swing set, she was the one who told me if I imagined the box didn't exist then I wouldn't have to worry about trying to think outside of it. I couldn't let her go so easily. And I didn't."

"If it wasn't for that one stupid day under that one stupid tree in seventh grade , Tarra would probably still be a dear friend to me instead of a haunting voice I'm trying so desperately to get rid of. But no! Tarra decided to break the rules and dB talk to me in public. She wanted to tell me about a new story she wanted to write and I could not resist her. We got so caught up in makings of another wonderful short story that I didn't even notice the small crowd around me. Hearing everyone laughing and seeing  everyone pointing at me at me broke my heart. I knew in that very moment that I was different and it was wrong to still have an imaginary friend at thirteen. That was the day I vowed to never again acknowledge the strange voice in my head. "

Exhausted , Francesca let her head drop into her hands and she took in the silence. As a few minutes passed, she prepared herself for the judgement that always came. She waited patiently to hear the damming words come from Dr. Anthony’s lips. 

"Francesca how about we pick up here tomorrow?" Dr. Anthony needed a moment alone just as much as Francesca did. 

Francesca was so shocked.  There was no judgement.  No ignorance.  Just a chance for her to unburden herself.

"Sure,  I'd like that. "

Francesca picked up her belongings and for the first time in a while, she genuinely smiled. 

Title: Walking the Press

Genre: Suspense  

Age range: 25 plus

Word count: 2,407

Author: Tiera Franklin

Walking the Press is good fit because it's a fresh idea and offers insight into the mind of a millennial. 

Synopsis: Francesca Stevenson is hearing a voice. It's there when she's  and even when she's crowded. After suffering from several panic attacks brought on by the constant noise in her head,she seeks help from  psychologist Zuri  Anthony. Little does Francesca know, the once peaceful imaginary friend will not go away so peacefully.

Target audience: 14+ male and female

Bio: The second oldest of five, I live to write. Being published is the only thing I think of.

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Written by 11CaramelDeLyte in portal Trident Media Group
Walking the Press
CHAPTER ONE
“You know, the sooner you begin to talk, the sooner you'll begin to heal. "
Francesca had been sitting in the same spot just looking around. She wondered if it was even worth speaking to anyone about her inner thoughts. Was it worth telling someone so beautiful about how ugly she felt? She thought about getting up and walking out but since she'd already paid for the visit, she figured she may as well say something. 
Scoffing at Dr. Anthony’s previous comment, she continued to look around the dimly lit office just a little bit longer, just thinking about finally getting some healing.  She’d long ago lost count of how many times she had prayed for healing. Yet time and time again, her prayers seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. She'd tried so hard to hold on to her faith and for some reason, one she really could not explain, she really loved the Lord and could not seem to cut Him out of her life. No matter how many times it looked as if He was ignoring her, she held on to even the smallest glimmer of hope that He was listening. She had tried numerous time to just give up on believing God heard her prayers or that He would even bother to answer them. Yet, she hung around the church hoping that one day healing would just find her. Francesca hoped and prayed with her heart of hearts that one day the pain would just go away. But, there was no such luck. The pain never left. Even when her tears dried up, pain stayed in the back of her mind patiently awaiting the day to remind her of its existence. And unfortunately for Francesca, pain was too set on familiarizing her with its strength. After her fourth anxiety attack in the matter of weeks, she decided to seek professional help outside of the church. So, there she sat in Dr. Anthony’s intricately designed office just looking around and distracting herself with the beautiful autumn inspired decorations all around the room.
Dr. Anthony sensed Francesca’s hesitation and decided to lead the conversation. 
“Francesca I can’t help you if you won’t tell me what’s wrong.”
“Hmmm…” Frankie thought out loud. “Tell you what’s wrong. Well Dr. Anthony everything’s wrong. But before we get into that, do you know why I chose you to counsel me?”
Frankie’s superior attitude had been present since she walked into Dr. Anthony’s office. Zuri Anthony wasn’t one to be made to feel small. However, instead of getting defensive, Dr. Anthony decided to play cool.
“Um no Francesca. No I do not. Care to tell me.”
“Well, the answer is very simple. I saw a problem. Actually I saw many problems and I decided I need help. However, I didn’t want help from just any old counselor. No, I needed someone with faith, family, and familiarity. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but you are a Sunday school teacher. Am I right?”
Dr. Anthony was baffled by Frankie’s boldness but nonetheless, she answered her question.
“Yes, I am. But…”
“And, you’re a married mother of two. Correct?”
“Correct. But what does that have…”
“The only thing left is familiarity. And it was hard to find any similarities between the two of us. You were born with a silver spoon and I was born with plastic. You’re married with a beautiful family. I’m single, solo. You are so beautiful and well loved. I’m plain little ole me. Just little neglected and rejected me. However, if my research serves me correctly, I do believe you once saw a therapist of your own. Wasn’t it because you were just one  panic attack away from a nervous breakdown or something like that?”
Shocked and ashamed,  Dr. Anthony held her head down. It was true. She had once sought out a therapist to get rid of the constant pain and fear that were invading her mind. But it dawned on her. If Francesca called her little breakdown familiar then surely Frankie must be having panic attacks also. 
“That’s true also Francesca. I did have a mental break while I was still in college. Is that why you’re here today? Are you having your own mental breakdown?” Dr. Anthony asked with a look of concern.
Usually, it was easy for Frankie to keep up her brave face. But for some reason, hearing her greatest imperfection from the mouth of someone far more superior than she humbled her. Once again, her false bravado failed her. Frankie’s heart was breaking. If the one person she paid to not have pity on her was sitting before her with such pity, then surely everyone else in her life pitied her.
The look of sorrow in Francesca’s eyes baffled Dr. Anthony. Mere seconds before, Francesca’s nose was in the air and her eyes were cast down. How could one of such confidence be diminished to such pity so quickly?
“I practiced over and over what I would say if I was ever given the chance. Would I confess all of my weaknesses? Would I scream? Would I cry? And now that I’m here, I find myself questioning if it’s even worth talking to you. I mean is it even worth telling someone as beautiful as you how ugly I really fell inside? Is it worth explaining to you the painful art of accepting rejection? I have just one question for you Doc. Have you ever been rejected by anyone in your life?”
Although she didn’t see the importance of her history, Dr. Anthony decided to play along.
“Yeah I guess you can say I’ve been rejected before. You know Francesca, some of my exes actually broke up with me. There was one relationship that I found extremely hard to lose. But what does that have to do with how you’re feeling?”
“Honestly, I really prefer not to share my most heartbreaking thoughts with someone who doesn’t understand. Nevertheless, I just really need to tell someone how I really feel. I mean I really need to be heard and not judged. I figured I would have to get help sooner or later considering I’ve had four anxiety attacks. It may as well be sooner.”
Francesca inhaled deeply then exhaled slowly. She was ready to finally bare her soul to someone. She was tired of not being healed.
“Do me a quick favor,” she began. “Think of all of the art you know. I’m talking about every form of art. The music, the paintings, the poetry, dance, acting. Think of it all. Now, think of your favorite artist. Hopefully you have a favorite in each category. Do you ever wonder how much does she or he suffers? How much did she or he have to suffer to be as great as she or he is? Do you ever think of the sufferings of an artist? Or, are you one of those people who believe that art is easy- that anyone can just create? Honestly, have you ever thought about why music and poetry and dance and movies and even paintings have so much emotion? I’m certain that art is possessed by the soul of the artist. It’s been said that beauty knows no pain. And I believe art is one of the most painful beauties of this world.”
Frankie’s little rant confused Dr. Anthony. What did it matter how the doctor saw art? Frankie’s appointment was meant to be spent talking about her. And so far, she’d done everything but stay on topic. Fortunately, Dr. Anthony was a patient woman and knew if she wanted Francesca to open up she would have to make her feel comfortable. And if answering a few questions would make Frankie comfortable then so be it. 
“Well,” Dr. Anthony began. “I believe that beauty itself is pain.”
“Beauty itself is pain,” Frankie said interrupting Dr. Anthony. “Do tell, Doc.”
“We search the world looking for things and people that we behold to be beautiful. Each of us living up to someone else’s standards of beauty. But what really is beautiful? I believe since there is no one answer to that question, most people hurt themselves, willing to die even, just to try to be someone else's  version of beauty. Beauty is pain.”
“Someone else's version of beauty. Well Doc to be honest, I think my problem is I gave up on seeing beauty in people. And you seem to believe that’s where most look for beauty. I’m talking about the product. Not the person. What makes words beautiful? What makes pictures beautiful? What makes a building beautiful? I don’t care about what makes people beautiful!”
Francesca was so frustrated. For a second, just one split second, she thought Dr. Anthony understood. She thought Dr. Anthony could actually look at art and see the pain. She thought for one second someone could understand her. But no such luck.
“Francesca if you would just calm down and explain to me why you are really here, then maybe I can help you.”
Frankie thought about the answer to the Dr.’s question for a minute.
“I’m here because I have nothing. Nothing but this stupid voice in my head that will not go away. I hear it when I’m in a crowd, when I’m all alone, when I’m at work. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing. This voice in my head just won’t leave me alone.”
Her voice cracked. She officially broke down. She sat in her seat and patiently waited for the judgement to come. Whenever she had confided in family or friends, there was always judgement. Surely it would show up at that moment.
“Francesca listen to me. I can help you. But you need to let your guard down and trust me. Throwing tantrums when I don’t respond the way you think I should will not help. You have to trust me.”
Trust her? Dr. Anthony had no idea how comical she sounded to Francesca. Francesca had a hard time trusting her own parents let alone some superficial doctor who only saw beauty in people. But she thought about it once again. She'd already paid for her current session with the doctor, so she decided she may as well entertain herself. Exhaling, she decided to let go of some of her fears and invite someone into the inner workings of her mind. 
"Ever since I could remember, " she began. "There has been this nagging voice in the back of my mind. When I was little,  my mother would tell me it was just my imagination. She tried her best to explain to me that everyone goes through a short phase were it feels like someone is speaking with them. She called it an imaginary friend. As a child, I felt I had no choice but to believe her.  She's my mother. Surely she wouldn't lie to me about something so frightening. Well, slowly I learned to embrace my imaginary friend. I even learned to on love her. I named her Tarra. We were inseparable. She was there all throughout my childhood as my best friend,  as my only friend. There was nothing or no one that could change how I felt about Tarra."
Francesca paused to clear her mind. Thinking about the once  close relationship she'd  had with the voice that's now haunting her both day and night was beginning to overwhelm her. 
Just as Dr. Anthony was about to speak, Francesca continued.
"For a few years,  I really thought I was n I real and that there was no problem in having a friend that no one else could hear but me. After all, my mother had reassured me I was okay when I was little. So why did she  change the rules when I got older?" Francesca stopped to catch the few tears that were threatening  to fall.
"I was in the second grade, only y eight years old when she told me it was time for my friendship with Tarra to come to an  end. I can still remember the day she sat me down. 'Frankie,' she said. 'There comes a time in everyone's  life when imaginary friends must be traded in for real friends.'"
"It was so hard for me to understand. At first she told me it was okay to have Tarra, a strange voice that was always there to help me create beautiful stories and poems. Then she told me it was time I outgrow Tarra,the strange voice that carried me through scary thunderstorms and awful Meatloaf Mondays. I wasn't ready to just let go.m Tarra understood me, she was there for me in Kindergarten when Kierney Thompson pushed me off the swing set, she was the one who told me if I imagined the box didn't exist then I wouldn't have to worry about trying to think outside of it. I couldn't let her go so easily. And I didn't."
"If it wasn't for that one stupid day under that one stupid tree in seventh grade , Tarra would probably still be a dear friend to me instead of a haunting voice I'm trying so desperately to get rid of. But no! Tarra decided to break the rules and dB talk to me in public. She wanted to tell me about a new story she wanted to write and I could not resist her. We got so caught up in makings of another wonderful short story that I didn't even notice the small crowd around me. Hearing everyone laughing and seeing  everyone pointing at me at me broke my heart. I knew in that very moment that I was different and it was wrong to still have an imaginary friend at thirteen. That was the day I vowed to never again acknowledge the strange voice in my head. "
Exhausted , Francesca let her head drop into her hands and she took in the silence. As a few minutes passed, she prepared herself for the judgement that always came. She waited patiently to hear the damming words come from Dr. Anthony’s lips. 
"Francesca how about we pick up here tomorrow?" Dr. Anthony needed a moment alone just as much as Francesca did. 
Francesca was so shocked.  There was no judgement.  No ignorance.  Just a chance for her to unburden herself.
"Sure,  I'd like that. "
Francesca picked up her belongings and for the first time in a while, she genuinely smiled. 

Title: Walking the Press
Genre: Suspense  
Age range: 25 plus
Word count: 2,407
Author: Tiera Franklin
Walking the Press is good fit because it's a fresh idea and offers insight into the mind of a millennial. 
Synopsis: Francesca Stevenson is hearing a voice. It's there when she's  and even when she's crowded. After suffering from several panic attacks brought on by the constant noise in her head,she seeks help from  psychologist Zuri  Anthony. Little does Francesca know, the once peaceful imaginary friend will not go away so peacefully.
Target audience: 14+ male and female
Bio: The second oldest of five, I live to write. Being published is the only thing I think of.
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Written by Sam_Claussen in portal Comedy

Disney & Self Esteem

Disney is sexist. They present unrealistic expectations to females at an early, impressionable age that, if not achieved, can scar them for life. Of course we all know what I’m talking about; the eyes.

Obviously these unrealistic eye balls aren’t going anywhere, partly because they’re pretty, and mostly because Disney has more money than Satan on a lucky streak in Vegas. And eyes aren’t the only thing. I’ve heard rumbles of body image or something, I don’t know.

Guys face these issues as well. Not all of us can swing from tree to tree, or assassinate our brother to assume the throne. Disney thrusts these expectations down our throats and records us choking on it (how else did you think they got the voice for Donald?).

Self-esteem is a huge issue for ugly people, and it’s starting to bum the rest of us out. So I’ve taken it upon myself to provide a few reasons to feel better about yourself! So sit back, cradle your knees and tell yourself everything will be alright as we take Disney down a notch.

1. Jane sneezed on Tarzan once and he immediately died.

What, you think that story would have a happy ending? If you’ve read history at all you’d know that the European’s best weapon was their own filth and squalor. Tarzan’s immune system consisted of bananas and bestiality, he wasn’t anywhere near prepared to deal with the black plague.

2. Most of the Disney couples are divorced by now.

We all know high school love affairs generally don't end well. Most of the princesses were 16, or younger! Ariel didn't even know what a fork was, how well do you think she'll do in court? Cinderella would certainly end up with only one of those expensive glass slippers. The only one who is still chugging along is Snow White, but that's only because she's clinically depressed; some say that there's still a part of her sleeping away, that no amount of forced kisses will wake up.

3. Simba was beheaded

He had three solos and now thinks he can run a country? Monarchies are complicated governments, and all the circle of life stuff leads me to assume that he’s the head of the

church as well. Hakuna Makata doesn’t apply to civil war, or plagues, or Pumba’s attempted suicide. Political expertise isn’t genetic. We all know he couldn’t wait, but perhaps he should’ve taken a few management courses at the local community college before assuming the throne. I say we make Nala our leader. #pinnedya'gain2020

4. Rapunzel became the most economically viable executioner.

Rope ain't cheap.

5. A lamp wasn't the only thing he was rubbing.

You thought Jasmine was 18? That won’t hold up in court. Sure, Aladdin said it was love and that they had the Sultan’s permission, but then 14 other kids came forward and Genie told prosecutors the disturbing shit he was wishing for.

6. Ariel is totally fat now.

All that BP oil was chalk full of trans fat.

Well, there you have it. I hope you feel better about yourself because, as we all know, the best cure for self loathing is judging others.

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Written by Sam_Claussen in portal Comedy
Disney & Self Esteem
Disney is sexist. They present unrealistic expectations to females at an early, impressionable age that, if not achieved, can scar them for life. Of course we all know what I’m talking about; the eyes.

Obviously these unrealistic eye balls aren’t going anywhere, partly because they’re pretty, and mostly because Disney has more money than Satan on a lucky streak in Vegas. And eyes aren’t the only thing. I’ve heard rumbles of body image or something, I don’t know.

Guys face these issues as well. Not all of us can swing from tree to tree, or assassinate our brother to assume the throne. Disney thrusts these expectations down our throats and records us choking on it (how else did you think they got the voice for Donald?).

Self-esteem is a huge issue for ugly people, and it’s starting to bum the rest of us out. So I’ve taken it upon myself to provide a few reasons to feel better about yourself! So sit back, cradle your knees and tell yourself everything will be alright as we take Disney down a notch.

1. Jane sneezed on Tarzan once and he immediately died.
What, you think that story would have a happy ending? If you’ve read history at all you’d know that the European’s best weapon was their own filth and squalor. Tarzan’s immune system consisted of bananas and bestiality, he wasn’t anywhere near prepared to deal with the black plague.

2. Most of the Disney couples are divorced by now.
We all know high school love affairs generally don't end well. Most of the princesses were 16, or younger! Ariel didn't even know what a fork was, how well do you think she'll do in court? Cinderella would certainly end up with only one of those expensive glass slippers. The only one who is still chugging along is Snow White, but that's only because she's clinically depressed; some say that there's still a part of her sleeping away, that no amount of forced kisses will wake up.

3. Simba was beheaded
He had three solos and now thinks he can run a country? Monarchies are complicated governments, and all the circle of life stuff leads me to assume that he’s the head of the
church as well. Hakuna Makata doesn’t apply to civil war, or plagues, or Pumba’s attempted suicide. Political expertise isn’t genetic. We all know he couldn’t wait, but perhaps he should’ve taken a few management courses at the local community college before assuming the throne. I say we make Nala our leader. #pinnedya'gain2020

4. Rapunzel became the most economically viable executioner.
Rope ain't cheap.

5. A lamp wasn't the only thing he was rubbing.
You thought Jasmine was 18? That won’t hold up in court. Sure, Aladdin said it was love and that they had the Sultan’s permission, but then 14 other kids came forward and Genie told prosecutors the disturbing shit he was wishing for.

6. Ariel is totally fat now.
All that BP oil was chalk full of trans fat.

Well, there you have it. I hope you feel better about yourself because, as we all know, the best cure for self loathing is judging others.
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Love has damaged me and I don't know if...
Written by Sam_Claussen

Phantom Ghosts & Whispers

Love has damaged me, and I don't know if I should blame myself, for believing in such a dusty social development, or society itself. Love is nothing more than a mirage, a chemical reaction in our brains, the very same that frighten us with phantom ghosts and drive us to tears with whispers of those who've passed on. It's evolution, a survival trait that has long grown rusty. I know these shadows, the magical trickster called Mother Nature, and yet, despite my knowledge and woes, I choose ignorance every time. 

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Love has damaged me and I don't know if...
Written by Sam_Claussen
Phantom Ghosts & Whispers
Love has damaged me, and I don't know if I should blame myself, for believing in such a dusty social development, or society itself. Love is nothing more than a mirage, a chemical reaction in our brains, the very same that frighten us with phantom ghosts and drive us to tears with whispers of those who've passed on. It's evolution, a survival trait that has long grown rusty. I know these shadows, the magical trickster called Mother Nature, and yet, despite my knowledge and woes, I choose ignorance every time. 
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Short children's story
Written by Harry_Situation

Something's Under The Bed... Yet Again

"LU? LU!" Regan's voice cried out from the darkness.

Her stepfather Lu, the devil himself, burst open the door and approached her bedside and calmly asked. "Yes Regan. What is it?"

"Lu, I think there's another monster under the bed." the frightened five-year old peeped as she shuttered under her covers. "Can you go check it, please?"

"Another monster, you say, eh?" the devil playfully chimed. "You know, kiddo, there comes a time where we-"

The musical melody of Lu's phone paused his words. "Hello?" the devil answered.

It was Lilith's voice on the other line. "Pardon for disturbing you at this hour, boss. But Legion wanted me to inform you that one of his experiments has broken loose, and seems to have scattered off. Could you be on the look out for it?"

Lu's face froze. His black heart tapped against his breast faster. Then he heard a soft shuffle underneath his young stepdaughter's bed. Mustering enough courage to take a peak under the bed, Lu locked eyes with a shadowy mass that scurried into the back corner. 

It was too dark underneath to get a good glimpse, but he saw that the mass was rounded like a basketball, covered in slimy fur, wiggly tentacles that squirmed around, and eight set of eyes staring back fearfully at the king of the Inferno.

                                                             ***

Carmen Gravely heard the pattering of feet enter her bedroom. She woke to find her husband cradling her youngest daughter safely in his arms. They pair then plopped themselves in the comforts of the king's sized bed.

"Huh-wah?" Mrs. Gravely mumbled, too tired and exhausted to open her eyes or grab her glasses off the nightstand. "What's going on?"

"She's just gonna sleep with us for tonight, okay?" Lu frantically jabbered as he tucked himself and Regan under the covers. "Night, night."

Carmen shrugged and laid back down next to her daughter, who slept quietly. Lu stayed awake and aware, hoping that no monsters doesn't crawl under their bed tonight.

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Short children's story
Written by Harry_Situation
Something's Under The Bed... Yet Again
"LU? LU!" Regan's voice cried out from the darkness.

Her stepfather Lu, the devil himself, burst open the door and approached her bedside and calmly asked. "Yes Regan. What is it?"

"Lu, I think there's another monster under the bed." the frightened five-year old peeped as she shuttered under her covers. "Can you go check it, please?"

"Another monster, you say, eh?" the devil playfully chimed. "You know, kiddo, there comes a time where we-"

The musical melody of Lu's phone paused his words. "Hello?" the devil answered.

It was Lilith's voice on the other line. "Pardon for disturbing you at this hour, boss. But Legion wanted me to inform you that one of his experiments has broken loose, and seems to have scattered off. Could you be on the look out for it?"

Lu's face froze. His black heart tapped against his breast faster. Then he heard a soft shuffle underneath his young stepdaughter's bed. Mustering enough courage to take a peak under the bed, Lu locked eyes with a shadowy mass that scurried into the back corner. 

It was too dark underneath to get a good glimpse, but he saw that the mass was rounded like a basketball, covered in slimy fur, wiggly tentacles that squirmed around, and eight set of eyes staring back fearfully at the king of the Inferno.

                                                             ***
Carmen Gravely heard the pattering of feet enter her bedroom. She woke to find her husband cradling her youngest daughter safely in his arms. They pair then plopped themselves in the comforts of the king's sized bed.

"Huh-wah?" Mrs. Gravely mumbled, too tired and exhausted to open her eyes or grab her glasses off the nightstand. "What's going on?"

"She's just gonna sleep with us for tonight, okay?" Lu frantically jabbered as he tucked himself and Regan under the covers. "Night, night."

Carmen shrugged and laid back down next to her daughter, who slept quietly. Lu stayed awake and aware, hoping that no monsters doesn't crawl under their bed tonight.
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August 21 will be the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse crosses the USA. Beginning after August 21--if you were lucky enough to experience totality--write about it. Any genre. No word limit. It'll be my first totality--I've waited all my life for this. I'll be there. Let those who saw it with me immortalize it.
Written by ruffmiriam

Part of the Total

On August 21, 2017, much of the United States will participate in a mass viewing of the first total solar eclipse in almost 100 years to be visible in our country. I will be out and watching, but I will only see a sun eclipsed 81 percent, as I am several hundred miles north of totality's path. Why don't I just hop on a plane or get in the car and go to a location that will see the total event? I would love to, but I can't. I'm sorely disappointed, but it's not the first time.

Even with my love of astronomy (I was going to minor in it in college), I have not seen many of the wondrous phenomena that have taken place in our skies. Halley's Comet? Cloudy. Hale-Bopp? Cloudy. What about the Perseid meteor shower each year? Cloudy or raining almost every single time. I think I've seen a couple of meteors, but I also live in an area with a great deal of light pollution, so I can't really be sure. Same goes for the Leonids and all the other showers that light up the heavens around our planet. I have a nice telescope, but it's too heavy to carry around to a deserted area most of the time although I did see Jupiter with three of its Galilean moons the first time I used it - awesome!!

So, back to the traveling. Bottom line - I don't have the money to get a plane ticket. Traveling is expensive, and due to a disability, I can work only enough hours to just make ends meet. It's been this way for so many years that I've stopped even thinking about the possibility of such a luxury. And sitting in a car for hours hurts my body more than I care to admit. For someone who used to love driving cross-country, that's kind of sobering, too.

But even if can't see the total eclipse, millions of other people will, and I'll be out with my funky protective glasses to look at the 81 percent this area will get. And with the internet, I'll be able to see some fabulous pictures and share in the amazing science that's going to be uncovered by this event. I could be all mopey and refuse to enjoy the day, but what purpose would that serve? Life is what it is, and it's up to each of us to make the most out of what we have. I will be out, virtually sharing the day with every other sky watcher. Together the sum of all our parts will be greater than the total.

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August 21 will be the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse crosses the USA. Beginning after August 21--if you were lucky enough to experience totality--write about it. Any genre. No word limit. It'll be my first totality--I've waited all my life for this. I'll be there. Let those who saw it with me immortalize it.
Written by ruffmiriam
Part of the Total
On August 21, 2017, much of the United States will participate in a mass viewing of the first total solar eclipse in almost 100 years to be visible in our country. I will be out and watching, but I will only see a sun eclipsed 81 percent, as I am several hundred miles north of totality's path. Why don't I just hop on a plane or get in the car and go to a location that will see the total event? I would love to, but I can't. I'm sorely disappointed, but it's not the first time.

Even with my love of astronomy (I was going to minor in it in college), I have not seen many of the wondrous phenomena that have taken place in our skies. Halley's Comet? Cloudy. Hale-Bopp? Cloudy. What about the Perseid meteor shower each year? Cloudy or raining almost every single time. I think I've seen a couple of meteors, but I also live in an area with a great deal of light pollution, so I can't really be sure. Same goes for the Leonids and all the other showers that light up the heavens around our planet. I have a nice telescope, but it's too heavy to carry around to a deserted area most of the time although I did see Jupiter with three of its Galilean moons the first time I used it - awesome!!

So, back to the traveling. Bottom line - I don't have the money to get a plane ticket. Traveling is expensive, and due to a disability, I can work only enough hours to just make ends meet. It's been this way for so many years that I've stopped even thinking about the possibility of such a luxury. And sitting in a car for hours hurts my body more than I care to admit. For someone who used to love driving cross-country, that's kind of sobering, too.

But even if can't see the total eclipse, millions of other people will, and I'll be out with my funky protective glasses to look at the 81 percent this area will get. And with the internet, I'll be able to see some fabulous pictures and share in the amazing science that's going to be uncovered by this event. I could be all mopey and refuse to enjoy the day, but what purpose would that serve? Life is what it is, and it's up to each of us to make the most out of what we have. I will be out, virtually sharing the day with every other sky watcher. Together the sum of all our parts will be greater than the total.

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Explore the concept of Infinity in a Poem
Written by Stori in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Infinity In Finite

How to box this imperceptible concept?

How to conceive of a perceivable precept to steer the brain towards grasping the sheer magnitude of the infinitive spans of this measurement, and its exponentially enormous extents!

You'd need first to be omnipotent and secondly ambidextrous, so you can grasp with both hands this cumbersome scope of an awareness.

Forever never crosses my mind though because I have no need to plan for it. 

Better late than never is as far as I go with it.

THE END

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Explore the concept of Infinity in a Poem
Written by Stori in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Infinity In Finite
How to box this imperceptible concept?
How to conceive of a perceivable precept to steer the brain towards grasping the sheer magnitude of the infinitive spans of this measurement, and its exponentially enormous extents!
You'd need first to be omnipotent and secondly ambidextrous, so you can grasp with both hands this cumbersome scope of an awareness.
Forever never crosses my mind though because I have no need to plan for it. 
Better late than never is as far as I go with it.
THE END
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Written by LovingLola

Infinite possibilities.

Seated in the same cafe, at the same table, in the same position, he reads his book. I sit at a table in the corner, cornered by fear of walking over to him and saying "Hi". He could respond "Hello", "Ola", "Bonjour"or "Namaste". So many possibilities. He could be a writer, painter, dancer or singer. So many different possibilities. He could fall in love with me, name stars after me and explore galaxies with me. All the infinite possibilities stemming from a single and monosyllabic word - "Hi." Yet, all I decide to do is drink my coffee in the same cafe, in the same seat, in the same corner. 

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Written by LovingLola
Infinite possibilities.
Seated in the same cafe, at the same table, in the same position, he reads his book. I sit at a table in the corner, cornered by fear of walking over to him and saying "Hi". He could respond "Hello", "Ola", "Bonjour"or "Namaste". So many possibilities. He could be a writer, painter, dancer or singer. So many different possibilities. He could fall in love with me, name stars after me and explore galaxies with me. All the infinite possibilities stemming from a single and monosyllabic word - "Hi." Yet, all I decide to do is drink my coffee in the same cafe, in the same seat, in the same corner. 
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Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by TheFederalist in portal Trident Media Group

Dissociation

Aimed at putting value on truth,                    is a study on the disturbingly transcendental qualities imaginary realities are taking on, as they hide themselves in the chalk which draws, the ever-blurring lines that we live by. The following is an excerpt from the raid.

All that is required is a shift of being, which any given individual may choose.

The translation of emotions is one of the more sinister occurrences in this paradigm.Thus, before I begin to outline the will-induced prowess by which dark methodology harnesses the innocence of empathy, I must ironically give context; that this *misadventured endeavor, unknown and daunting, would gain such desperate actuation to incite the rare decisiveness of the hopeless, might be understood; Young love unrequited, out of place and misunderstood, offers a cogent example.

Now, to be mistook, an entity must be perceived, and to be perceived it must in some way or another proclaim itself. Whether this take the form of an uncharacteristic declamation or simply manifest behind frantically ardent eyes, it must be, for a moment at least, unequivocally revealed. At this point any number of things might ensue, but in all probability the result will be one of the following:

Rejection, usually frank and fast, especially if the formidable concept is mutual (as the most *convicting of spontaneous endeavors usually fall; victim to the agony of fear, and rather than acting on the robust hunger- the likes of which unseen, the temptation of security bridles the heart and thus leads them to appear *surceased); denial, safe and ubiquitous, of both the confession, and naturally, of any reciprocal feeling; or perhaps most dangerously, intense ignition, of the same soul, split apart by secret fate, united once more- put quaintly, madman’s aidenn.

In the case of rejection there is the delicate chance for feelings to respectfully *submiss to create a brilliant friendship, but this is sadly unusual. Often, discomfort will create an unnatural void which happens to take up space and require resolution where there is none to be found.

If feelings are mutual, even slightly so, there is not but one solution and it is temporary at best. For unlike every other form of addiction, to which disciplined temperance is the scourge; true love might capture the motivations of the youthful heart and the wise alike; And it when it does, it does so with persistent exuberance.

An explanation of true love’s endurance is far too weighty for me to engage but, speaking to a single window of origin, in which authenticity is a given, and growth is embraced, the universal truth that we are all created equal and that each and every one of us has aspects that may truly enamor those surrounding: that we are genuinely and incomparably beautiful, offers a node of perfection which, when applied, might explain this temporally elicit phenomena.

From the kernel and the therein sowed temerity of being, trusting in and of our beloved as we fall, and that they in turn fall for us, that all that remains is the excitement of learning about and from the parts of each other undiscovered.

*“Veritas Magna Est Et Prevailebit”

(Note—An address by Alexander Hamilton which I hope to apply and repeat as a continuity)

Truth is powerful and will prevail. With denial it is only ever a matter of time. And these feelings, having time to boil, represent an abominable thing, which staggeringly probable I will address. Three principles define the turbulence of the next; that which leads to the pertinence of this paragon.

Firstly, that where there is history of true love there is reality which from the curiosity of the beloved cannot be hidden. Secondly, that hormones and sincerity make a dastardly dashing combination. And third, dependent on the other two, that one or multiple of the aforementioned likelihoods airs.

To hear the words “I love you” from the person who is always on your mind, grants a type of bliss like no other. But emotions being as they are, may seize hold of such a prospect whilst combating reason and the rules set out by a quickly fleeting reality. As your actions have become learnedly regulated they remain subdued; as your small world is ripped asunder, your vague knowledge of existence is no match for the idiosyncrasies which you have unknowingly and perfectly memorized, now which you analyze in order embrace your new truth. And then comes the triple entendre to dash your dreams, as He or She dashes away; your deluded new reality, your dream, disappearing before your eyes. 

It is at this moment it happens, when you are at your most vulnerable, stuck between worlds: an old wound ripped open, but with the added weight of uncertain hope.

The original metamorphosis requires a catalyst from whence a similar situation may be transposed precisely; therefore equally impassioned, but altered in disposition, due to individual history and identity. Furthermore, in order to adopt the nature of a separate being, a very clear and influential medium is required. The which can take many forms, modern literature for example, in any of its limitless forms, is by far the most widely accessible.

A subsequent artifice, used to maintain this conjured state may manifest itself as meditation on paradox, substance abuse, or any of the insidiously appropriated coping mechanisms learned in the face of crisis. This is a point of great cementation: when so far gone is attachment to the self that self-destruction is appealing, and that one would go to such lengths in order to halt the dreamlike variables which stir them from their elected oblivion.

Despite momentary relief granted, perhaps temptation of deliverance, a tincture of nepenthe for the weak and inexperienced, this type of existence, like any that is borrowed, bears an unthinkable weight. For either an employer must abandon perpetually their connection to their largely subjective “soul” in this thereby meaningless existence, or, if they wake late from their sleep of submission, face the equally lasting days which without them passed.

One might hope that certain scenarios would overrule this loss of personal sovereignty, long enough to do what is right by judgement of the heart. However, the circumstances of such an occurrence or whether it would ever even occur are as indecipherable as the pain of understanding is intolerable to those who would make such a choice to begin with.

If the seeker of this powerless silence intends to escape the incessant pull of true necessity, be warned, for there are those things which leash a noose around you even through the veil.

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Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by TheFederalist in portal Trident Media Group
Dissociation
Aimed at putting value on truth,                    is a study on the disturbingly transcendental qualities imaginary realities are taking on, as they hide themselves in the chalk which draws, the ever-blurring lines that we live by. The following is an excerpt from the raid.


All that is required is a shift of being, which any given individual may choose.
The translation of emotions is one of the more sinister occurrences in this paradigm.Thus, before I begin to outline the will-induced prowess by which dark methodology harnesses the innocence of empathy, I must ironically give context; that this *misadventured endeavor, unknown and daunting, would gain such desperate actuation to incite the rare decisiveness of the hopeless, might be understood; Young love unrequited, out of place and misunderstood, offers a cogent example.
Now, to be mistook, an entity must be perceived, and to be perceived it must in some way or another proclaim itself. Whether this take the form of an uncharacteristic declamation or simply manifest behind frantically ardent eyes, it must be, for a moment at least, unequivocally revealed. At this point any number of things might ensue, but in all probability the result will be one of the following:
Rejection, usually frank and fast, especially if the formidable concept is mutual (as the most *convicting of spontaneous endeavors usually fall; victim to the agony of fear, and rather than acting on the robust hunger- the likes of which unseen, the temptation of security bridles the heart and thus leads them to appear *surceased); denial, safe and ubiquitous, of both the confession, and naturally, of any reciprocal feeling; or perhaps most dangerously, intense ignition, of the same soul, split apart by secret fate, united once more- put quaintly, madman’s aidenn.
In the case of rejection there is the delicate chance for feelings to respectfully *submiss to create a brilliant friendship, but this is sadly unusual. Often, discomfort will create an unnatural void which happens to take up space and require resolution where there is none to be found.
If feelings are mutual, even slightly so, there is not but one solution and it is temporary at best. For unlike every other form of addiction, to which disciplined temperance is the scourge; true love might capture the motivations of the youthful heart and the wise alike; And it when it does, it does so with persistent exuberance.
An explanation of true love’s endurance is far too weighty for me to engage but, speaking to a single window of origin, in which authenticity is a given, and growth is embraced, the universal truth that we are all created equal and that each and every one of us has aspects that may truly enamor those surrounding: that we are genuinely and incomparably beautiful, offers a node of perfection which, when applied, might explain this temporally elicit phenomena.
From the kernel and the therein sowed temerity of being, trusting in and of our beloved as we fall, and that they in turn fall for us, that all that remains is the excitement of learning about and from the parts of each other undiscovered.


*“Veritas Magna Est Et Prevailebit”
(Note—An address by Alexander Hamilton which I hope to apply and repeat as a continuity)

Truth is powerful and will prevail. With denial it is only ever a matter of time. And these feelings, having time to boil, represent an abominable thing, which staggeringly probable I will address. Three principles define the turbulence of the next; that which leads to the pertinence of this paragon.
Firstly, that where there is history of true love there is reality which from the curiosity of the beloved cannot be hidden. Secondly, that hormones and sincerity make a dastardly dashing combination. And third, dependent on the other two, that one or multiple of the aforementioned likelihoods airs.
To hear the words “I love you” from the person who is always on your mind, grants a type of bliss like no other. But emotions being as they are, may seize hold of such a prospect whilst combating reason and the rules set out by a quickly fleeting reality. As your actions have become learnedly regulated they remain subdued; as your small world is ripped asunder, your vague knowledge of existence is no match for the idiosyncrasies which you have unknowingly and perfectly memorized, now which you analyze in order embrace your new truth. And then comes the triple entendre to dash your dreams, as He or She dashes away; your deluded new reality, your dream, disappearing before your eyes. 
It is at this moment it happens, when you are at your most vulnerable, stuck between worlds: an old wound ripped open, but with the added weight of uncertain hope.
The original metamorphosis requires a catalyst from whence a similar situation may be transposed precisely; therefore equally impassioned, but altered in disposition, due to individual history and identity. Furthermore, in order to adopt the nature of a separate being, a very clear and influential medium is required. The which can take many forms, modern literature for example, in any of its limitless forms, is by far the most widely accessible.
A subsequent artifice, used to maintain this conjured state may manifest itself as meditation on paradox, substance abuse, or any of the insidiously appropriated coping mechanisms learned in the face of crisis. This is a point of great cementation: when so far gone is attachment to the self that self-destruction is appealing, and that one would go to such lengths in order to halt the dreamlike variables which stir them from their elected oblivion.
Despite momentary relief granted, perhaps temptation of deliverance, a tincture of nepenthe for the weak and inexperienced, this type of existence, like any that is borrowed, bears an unthinkable weight. For either an employer must abandon perpetually their connection to their largely subjective “soul” in this thereby meaningless existence, or, if they wake late from their sleep of submission, face the equally lasting days which without them passed.
One might hope that certain scenarios would overrule this loss of personal sovereignty, long enough to do what is right by judgement of the heart. However, the circumstances of such an occurrence or whether it would ever even occur are as indecipherable as the pain of understanding is intolerable to those who would make such a choice to begin with.
If the seeker of this powerless silence intends to escape the incessant pull of true necessity, be warned, for there are those things which leash a noose around you even through the veil.
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Juice
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