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Written by Prose in portal Prose

Later, Chris.

     Rome. 2016, March. Hadn't seen him since the '90s. Drunk on being away from the States, drunk on red and white wine, and a stomach gorged with in-house pasta, bread, and anything else I could get my hands on. Alley, restaurant. Trevi fountain checked off. Young Italian girls waving Americans in to their restaurants. A brothel feel. I want to go into the story about the two Italians fighting over the check. The owner and a drunk patron. I want to go into the gelato after, the air of Rome, the bricks of the alleys. But I can't. Rare to see this profile written in first person, but this is different. Like Rome is different. Lost there. Must gaze upon the Pantheon during the first rays of moonlight. 

Lost there. Around a blind corner I nearly walked into Cornell. The man was tall. I'm 6'1 and he loomed over me. We glanced at each other, I registered the situation, and kept moving. GPS called me a moron in code, so I followed Cornell and his wife, and their little girl. I wasn't listening but I was. He was telling his girl about how life is in Italy. I heard, "In Italy..." then the crowd around us absorbed the rest. A few people took fast second looks, and then went back to their tables, their drinks, their own trips and lives.

     In Rome no one cares who you are. 

     Quite a beautiful feeling.    

     Rome is different.

    Crossing back toward where I had to go. Losing light. The Sun becoming the Moon, and I'm standing there then, staring at the street that I would cross to my hotel, to give up, but I'm feeling too fine, and I'm in Rome. I'm in fucking ROME. Not to sound incredulous. I put my phone to my ear to hear the directions, looked down the street. Cornell. Giving me a skeptical but not-so-sure stare, a sideways check. It would appear I was following them, but I wasn't. It didn't bother me. I laughed ahead. Rome is different. He disappeared down the street with his family, and I realized I'd been going the right way the whole time. Turned back, walked and thought about it. I could have had a conversation with him, I could have dropped one name. His parents lived next door to my friend's parents here in West Seattle. He'd skated with Cornell, and once told me he and his parents would watch Cornell mowing his parents' lawn from upstairs, even after Soundgarden took off. We could have had a conversation away from the music, the words, just two dudes from here laughing about the suddenness of meeting in Rome with such far-reaching connections to the past. What stopped me from shaking his hand? I would like to fall back on ego, but it was only ego in the sense that I didn't want to be a fan, a number, even with a rare connection. 

     But the truth is I am a fan. And though I don't believe in regretting something you've already done, I should have shaken his hand. I didn't have to tell him that his lyrics were brilliant, his voice one of the most distinctive in all remembered time, or any of that bullshit people like him, the few of them, hear and have to deflect or appropriate when they're out in the world. I also simply didn't want to interrupt him or his family while they walked in peace as the Moon rose over Rome. 

     

     I found the Pantheon, young moonlight. Breath stolen. 

     This morning I awoke to a text from my buddy, Dave. Four words and an abbreviation: Dude, Chris Cornell died. WTF?

     Tap google. 52. Suspected suicide. No matter, he's gone. They all go, they don't live long enough to see themselves shine like the rest see them. And they don't care. Sitting here now, blasting Louder Than Love, and sending my best thoughts to his family. 

     Bukowski once said in a letter, "Death isn't a problem for the deceased, it's a problem for the living." Or something like that. Looking back on the dead artists of the last few years, Cornell hits pretty hard. 52 years old.

     Much love to his people. Hands All Over just started. I need more coffee, and to kiss my dogs. 

     Outside it's grey and bright and warm. 

     

     

     

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Written by Prose in portal Prose
Later, Chris.
     Rome. 2016, March. Hadn't seen him since the '90s. Drunk on being away from the States, drunk on red and white wine, and a stomach gorged with in-house pasta, bread, and anything else I could get my hands on. Alley, restaurant. Trevi fountain checked off. Young Italian girls waving Americans in to their restaurants. A brothel feel. I want to go into the story about the two Italians fighting over the check. The owner and a drunk patron. I want to go into the gelato after, the air of Rome, the bricks of the alleys. But I can't. Rare to see this profile written in first person, but this is different. Like Rome is different. Lost there. Must gaze upon the Pantheon during the first rays of moonlight. 
Lost there. Around a blind corner I nearly walked into Cornell. The man was tall. I'm 6'1 and he loomed over me. We glanced at each other, I registered the situation, and kept moving. GPS called me a moron in code, so I followed Cornell and his wife, and their little girl. I wasn't listening but I was. He was telling his girl about how life is in Italy. I heard, "In Italy..." then the crowd around us absorbed the rest. A few people took fast second looks, and then went back to their tables, their drinks, their own trips and lives.
     In Rome no one cares who you are. 
     Quite a beautiful feeling.    
     Rome is different.
    Crossing back toward where I had to go. Losing light. The Sun becoming the Moon, and I'm standing there then, staring at the street that I would cross to my hotel, to give up, but I'm feeling too fine, and I'm in Rome. I'm in fucking ROME. Not to sound incredulous. I put my phone to my ear to hear the directions, looked down the street. Cornell. Giving me a skeptical but not-so-sure stare, a sideways check. It would appear I was following them, but I wasn't. It didn't bother me. I laughed ahead. Rome is different. He disappeared down the street with his family, and I realized I'd been going the right way the whole time. Turned back, walked and thought about it. I could have had a conversation with him, I could have dropped one name. His parents lived next door to my friend's parents here in West Seattle. He'd skated with Cornell, and once told me he and his parents would watch Cornell mowing his parents' lawn from upstairs, even after Soundgarden took off. We could have had a conversation away from the music, the words, just two dudes from here laughing about the suddenness of meeting in Rome with such far-reaching connections to the past. What stopped me from shaking his hand? I would like to fall back on ego, but it was only ego in the sense that I didn't want to be a fan, a number, even with a rare connection. 
     But the truth is I am a fan. And though I don't believe in regretting something you've already done, I should have shaken his hand. I didn't have to tell him that his lyrics were brilliant, his voice one of the most distinctive in all remembered time, or any of that bullshit people like him, the few of them, hear and have to deflect or appropriate when they're out in the world. I also simply didn't want to interrupt him or his family while they walked in peace as the Moon rose over Rome. 
     
     I found the Pantheon, young moonlight. Breath stolen. 

     This morning I awoke to a text from my buddy, Dave. Four words and an abbreviation: Dude, Chris Cornell died. WTF?
     Tap google. 52. Suspected suicide. No matter, he's gone. They all go, they don't live long enough to see themselves shine like the rest see them. And they don't care. Sitting here now, blasting Louder Than Love, and sending my best thoughts to his family. 
     Bukowski once said in a letter, "Death isn't a problem for the deceased, it's a problem for the living." Or something like that. Looking back on the dead artists of the last few years, Cornell hits pretty hard. 52 years old.

     Much love to his people. Hands All Over just started. I need more coffee, and to kiss my dogs. 

     Outside it's grey and bright and warm. 
     
     

     
#culture 
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Once upon a field of snow
Written by dustygrein

His Love For Her

Once upon a field of snow

a babe was put to breast;

his mother’s sparkling eyes aglow

with love, she did impress

his love for her so deep and true

that every ounce of his soul knew

     his love for her.

     His love for her

waxed stronger daily as he grew.

Once upon a field of snow

a young man passed the test;

he earned the right to be her beau,

with passion he’d invest

his love for her, and thus he’d woo

his future bride; so fierce and true

     his love for her.

     His love for her

gave his heart wings, with which they flew.

Once upon a field of snow

a heart was laid to rest;

his soul mate, he had watched her go,

his tear-filled eyes confessed

his love for her, so strong and true.

His future, shaded gray and blue

     his love for her.

     His love for her

would somehow help him see it through.

(c) 2017 - dustygrein

** Note: This form is called a trijan refrain, and is one of my favorite poetic forms to work in. The triple stanza structure lends itself well to story arcs that encompass lifetimes.

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Once upon a field of snow
Written by dustygrein
His Love For Her
Once upon a field of snow
a babe was put to breast;
his mother’s sparkling eyes aglow
with love, she did impress
his love for her so deep and true
that every ounce of his soul knew
     his love for her.
     His love for her
waxed stronger daily as he grew.

Once upon a field of snow
a young man passed the test;
he earned the right to be her beau,
with passion he’d invest
his love for her, and thus he’d woo
his future bride; so fierce and true
     his love for her.
     His love for her
gave his heart wings, with which they flew.

Once upon a field of snow
a heart was laid to rest;
his soul mate, he had watched her go,
his tear-filled eyes confessed
his love for her, so strong and true.
His future, shaded gray and blue
     his love for her.
     His love for her
would somehow help him see it through.

(c) 2017 - dustygrein

** Note: This form is called a trijan refrain, and is one of my favorite poetic forms to work in. The triple stanza structure lends itself well to story arcs that encompass lifetimes.
#nonfiction  #romance  #poetry  #philosophy  #spirituality 
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Written by Firdaus in portal Stream of Consciousness

Happy Birthday @Soulhearts

I 'met' her almost three years ago. We were fledgling members of this huge world of words. Still discovering ourselves, groping through the many alleys, finding our footing. I liked her instantly. The soul can recognise the goodness of another soul I believe. And she shone through the crowd, pulling me towards her. I'm blessed by her constant support, encouragement and love. The unselfish way she gives without expecting anything in return makes me believe in the goodness of this changing world. I turn to her when life isn't quite right. She's wise and kind, full of heart and soul. Today she turns a year older, a year wiser, a year more a friend. Happy Birthday to this beautiful soul.

in the pitch

of a long night

I see the flicker

of a little flame

dancing–beckoning

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Written by Firdaus in portal Stream of Consciousness
Happy Birthday @Soulhearts
I 'met' her almost three years ago. We were fledgling members of this huge world of words. Still discovering ourselves, groping through the many alleys, finding our footing. I liked her instantly. The soul can recognise the goodness of another soul I believe. And she shone through the crowd, pulling me towards her. I'm blessed by her constant support, encouragement and love. The unselfish way she gives without expecting anything in return makes me believe in the goodness of this changing world. I turn to her when life isn't quite right. She's wise and kind, full of heart and soul. Today she turns a year older, a year wiser, a year more a friend. Happy Birthday to this beautiful soul.

in the pitch
of a long night
I see the flicker
of a little flame
dancing–beckoning
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Written by Fauxhero in portal Poetry & Free Verse

And I shall find you

Tucked inside

Of those most private of moments

You keep

Only for yourself

Hidden

Yet waiting

Just waiting to be found

You've left clues

Again

A map

As you busy yourself

In preparation

Ironing out your cresses

Mending the frays

Patching the worn

Translucent fabrics

Reinforcing clasps

That have been weakened

Twisted and deformed by

Holding on

To more than you were meant

Your hope

The busyness of your hands

Will hedge

The loneliness of your heart

So you're mindful to leave

The bits of thread and loose buttons

That have fallen

And the crumbs

A trail

And your voice

As it hums between bursts of song

Singing

"Come home, come home. You've been gone too long"

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Written by Fauxhero in portal Poetry & Free Verse
And I shall find you
Tucked inside
Of those most private of moments
You keep
Only for yourself
Hidden
Yet waiting
Just waiting to be found
You've left clues
Again
A map
As you busy yourself
In preparation
Ironing out your cresses
Mending the frays
Patching the worn
Translucent fabrics
Reinforcing clasps
That have been weakened
Twisted and deformed by
Holding on
To more than you were meant

Your hope
The busyness of your hands
Will hedge
The loneliness of your heart
So you're mindful to leave
The bits of thread and loose buttons
That have fallen
And the crumbs
A trail
And your voice
As it hums between bursts of song
Singing
"Come home, come home. You've been gone too long"
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Written by Fauxhero in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Lateness

We spent that night

Pulling at the moon

So close

To the words of poets past

Singing for the sun

In daring voices

Words all our own

To the whispers of dawn

Too timid to come too soon

We spent that night

Talking about life

And somehow

We changed the world

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Written by Fauxhero in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Lateness
We spent that night
Pulling at the moon
So close
To the words of poets past
Singing for the sun
In daring voices
Words all our own
To the whispers of dawn
Too timid to come too soon
We spent that night
Talking about life
And somehow
We changed the world
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Written by Jumotki

Staff Development Day

("Think Outside the Lines!")

By the time we get to the venue

our department table is filled

so we sit at an empty one

on the edge of the auditorium.

As our coworkers laugh

like the cool kids at school,

we fill up on stale bagels

and coffee that tastes like

charcoal and heartburn

and study the day’s agenda

(holy fuck, the ice breaker

is an hour long!)

and try not to look too desperate,

as seats fill around us. 

Introductions are made, 

the speaker thanks us for the

honor of being there and

organizations work together to

demonstrate the creativity

and innovation happening in…

two members of the admin team,

late to the party, join us at

the rejects table. We stiffen,

straighten up unconsciously,

hide our game of hangman

and doodles, take copious notes

…only YOU get to define the

parameters of this game…

as the cool table laugh and talk

loudly among themselves

the admin women stir

and mutter to each other,

a storm is brewing

right in front of us,

and I nudge my coworker

…this is about how you present

yourselves to the community…

I could warn my friends, but

I don’t. One of the ladies,

the one with the severe gray bob,

cat-eye glasses, mouth twisted down,

marches over to them

and "whispers" loudly, so that

the entire auditorium can hear:

Y’all are being too loud

and distractingshow

some respect.

The table silences at once

and the speaker continues

as if nothing has happened

…we want to be active versus

passive—we want people 

to come to us…

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Written by Jumotki
Staff Development Day
("Think Outside the Lines!")

By the time we get to the venue
our department table is filled
so we sit at an empty one
on the edge of the auditorium.
As our coworkers laugh
like the cool kids at school,
we fill up on stale bagels
and coffee that tastes like
charcoal and heartburn
and study the day’s agenda
(holy fuck, the ice breaker
is an hour long!)
and try not to look too desperate,
as seats fill around us. 
Introductions are made, 
the speaker thanks us for the
honor of being there and
organizations work together to
demonstrate the creativity
and innovation happening in…
two members of the admin team,
late to the party, join us at
the rejects table. We stiffen,
straighten up unconsciously,
hide our game of hangman
and doodles, take copious notes
…only YOU get to define the
parameters of this game…
as the cool table laugh and talk
loudly among themselves
the admin women stir
and mutter to each other,
a storm is brewing
right in front of us,
and I nudge my coworker
…this is about how you present
yourselves to the community…
I could warn my friends, but
I don’t. One of the ladies,
the one with the severe gray bob,
cat-eye glasses, mouth twisted down,
marches over to them
and "whispers" loudly, so that
the entire auditorium can hear:
Y’all are being too loud
and distractingshow
some respect.
The table silences at once
and the speaker continues
as if nothing has happened
…we want to be active versus
passive—we want people 
to come to us…
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Written by Mel in portal Poetry & Free Verse

Feral

Wailing at the streetlights

Leaned up against the wall

of the corner liquor store

Wanting to shed this skin

and leave it behind

in the piss filled alley

On all fours

Searching for an answer

Swallowing the warm

copper fluid taste

Chasing it down with bourbon

to numb the gnawed up flesh

Marking the territory

in choked up splatters of blood

Soiled hands thrown in the air

Giving up to your god

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Written by Mel in portal Poetry & Free Verse
Feral
Wailing at the streetlights
Leaned up against the wall
of the corner liquor store
Wanting to shed this skin
and leave it behind
in the piss filled alley
On all fours
Searching for an answer
Swallowing the warm
copper fluid taste
Chasing it down with bourbon
to numb the gnawed up flesh
Marking the territory
in choked up splatters of blood
Soiled hands thrown in the air
Giving up to your god
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A message to who you once were.
Written by sandflea68

No Message - Not There

Life is not static.

I never was

anything once.

I moved, I melted,

metamorphosed,

changed course,

ran into storms.

I learned, I loved,

I was battered

and bruised.

How could I write

message to person

I once was

when I never, ever

stayed in one place?

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A message to who you once were.
Written by sandflea68
No Message - Not There
Life is not static.
I never was
anything once.
I moved, I melted,
metamorphosed,
changed course,
ran into storms.
I learned, I loved,
I was battered
and bruised.
How could I write
message to person
I once was
when I never, ever
stayed in one place?

#challenge  #NeverOnceWas 
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Simon & Schuster is one of the world’s leading publishers and we are always looking for fresh new voices. Write a story, chapter, or essay about whatever you like. The 50 best entries will be announced by Prose and read by our editorial staff for consideration.
Chapter 1 of When Angels Cry
Written by dustygrein in portal Simon & Schuster

When Angels Cry (part 1)

(1)

I turn my collar up against the pouring rain. I don't feel the water running inside my coat, but I don't seem to feel much of anything. Maybe I just don't want to.

I pull my eyes away from the darkness hiding beneath the clean white lines of the casket, and stare into a future beyond the sea of sad faces. They will all go home, and I will be alone, more alone than I have ever been. I turn my heart away from the pain I see reflected in their eyes.

I can't let that pain get too close. It looks hungry, and I don't think I can survive if it climbs inside. It will eat my soul.

This place seems nice. I think she'll enjoy this hillside, and its beautiful sweep of lawn. I guess I will get used to the view. Not sure what else my life will consist of from now on, but I will keep this place—her place—cared for.

Oh, Ree... the green lawns remind me of that day I finally asked you. Remember?

#

The late summer sun was shining in the cloudless sky. I pulled my sunglasses over my eyes and watched her walk toward me. I felt a lump in my throat, and realized I couldn't swallow. The sunshine wasn't enough to take the slight September chill out of the air, but her smile was all I needed to warm me from the inside out.

Marie Holter. Sweet Marie. Her youngest kid sister calls her Ree-Ree, and I have a feeling Ree will stick. I still can't believe you are here with me. I'm not sure if I found you, or you found me, but I thank God that we found each other.

My nerves threatened to get the better of me. I turned and sat down in the grass. Reaching over, I grabbed a soda from the cooler and opened it as her shadow fell across me.

"I grabbed a big beach towel, instead of a blanket." She shook the largest towel I had ever seen out, and spread it on the grass. "I think lunch will fit on it though."

"Uh, yeah. I'm pretty sure Thanksgiving Dinner would fit on it." Her smile was dazzling.

I started to get up, but she pushed me back onto my butt, climbed across, and straddled my lap. Her arms interlocked behind my neck as she wrapped her legs and those impossibly tight blue jeans around my waist. The smell of her shampoo was driving me insane, and the closeness of her mouth to mine made me dizzy.

"Speaking of Thanksgiving, you better not even think about making any other plans this year. Last night at dinner, Julie asked me if you were coming to the Holter Holiday Hijinks. My mom grinned, and Daddy tried his best to look as if he couldn't care less, but it got really quiet, you know? I mean, even Becca closed her yapper and stared at me."

I reached up and pushed a runaway strand of hair behind her ear. "What did you say?"

"I said that not only would you be there, but I was thinking about having you carve the turkey. You should’ve seen it. Daddy's fork actually stopped halfway to his mouth and my mom spit her wine across her plate. It was the funniest thing ever!"

"Great. Now your dad is going to glare at me even harder the next time I see him."

"Don't be silly. Daddy’s a pushover." She took my face in her hands. "Now, do you wanna keep talking about my family, or can I distract you?"

She leaned in to kiss me, and then threw herself sideways, pulling me on top of her, and rolling us both onto the towel.

Nervously, I slid my hand into my coat pocket. The little box was still there.

Whew. That was almost a disaster, my Ree-Ree.

The time had come, and suddenly the great speech and romantic flourishes I had been practicing were gone. My tongue felt too big for my mouth and I wasn't sure if I could even form words correctly any more.

"Hey, I need to ask you a question."

She must have heard something serious in my voice, because she got the cutest worried look as I sat up. It wasn't until I got on one knee and reached in my pocket that her eyes softened, and then grew large.

"I know that you still have your senior year to finish, and that I don't have much money, or a good job yet, or stuff that makes me worth what you deserve, and I know that Jacobs is kind of a boring last name, and that your family may not even like me, but... well... I..."

She smiled that sweet, sweet smile, and reached out with her finger, placing it against my lips.

"Shh. I’ve been waiting since you started carrying that ring around for you to ask me. Just relax, then calmly and quietly, ask me whatever it is you were going to ask."

I was in shock. She knew about the ring!

She sat back down, folded her legs under her to the side, batted her eyes at me demurely, and folded her hands together.

"Okay" My voice sounded like a rusty tin can being dragged behind a car. I couldn't remember what I was saying a few seconds earlier. I knew I’d planned this whole thing out hundreds of times in my head, but I had nothing. "Uh ... Marry me?"

I'm such an idiot. That was the stupidest proposal ever!

Her expression as she sprang into my arms was almost as welcome as the words she whispered in my ear. "Yes, and I think Jacobs is a lovely last name."

(2)

Most of the people who are here have umbrellas. Black umbrellas. I suppose that's normal for funerals, but we only own a red one. We share it. Well, we used to share it; I guess it's just mine now.

I left it at home.

I can see my daughter, but she won't meet my eyes. I know she hurts. She and her mother were close in a way that she and I never have been. I love Tonya with every fiber of my being, but she and Ree shared what felt like a psychic connection, at least to outsiders like me. When she scraped her knee as a child, I would always kiss it better, but when she got her heart broken or was filled with pride at an accomplishment, her mother was the one she ran to.

I can't kiss this one away, Tonya. I wish I could.

The minister says something, but I can't quite hear his voice. Just a droning sound under the patter of raindrops on stretched black fabric. I notice the tarp that covers the dirt from the hole. I don't want to think about that hole.

What was it you used to say, Ree? "Never dig a hole you aren't prepared to fill?" Something like that.

As I watch Tonya lay her single red rose on top of the white box that now holds the remains of my heart, I can't help but think about the day she told me that the two of us would become three.

#

We walked along the side of the road, as snowflakes fell around us. The world was soft, and the trees wore their new white mantles like fine jewelry. I could tell there was something on Marie's mind. She was unusually withdrawn; it wasn’t like her to be this quiet.

"Hey, Ree, want to have a snowball fight? I bet we could find some great hiding places in the woods."

"No. James, I need to tell you something."

My heart leapt into my throat. James. Not Jimmy, or Jimbo, or even Jim - but James. This was serious. I stopped and reached for her hand, but she grabbed mine first. Squeezing it tightly, she pulled me along with her.

At least you grabbed my hand. I know we will get through this, whatever it is.

"Please, keep walking with me."

My mind began to run through scenarios, each more devastating than the last. Was it the house? A shutoff notice for the power? The dog... was Max okay? He was a 65 pound mix breed who ate twice his weight in kibble each month, but I knew she loved the big lug even more than I did.

"Marie, what's wrong?"

"I know that you’ve been saving money for a trip to Vegas." She wouldn't look at me, and I began to worry even more. "But I don't think we can afford it."

Is THAT all this is? Oh you silly woman!

Marie had a good job waiting tables at a family restaurant here in town, and even though my teacher's salary wasn't a lot, it was more than enough for us to take a trip to Sin City during Spring Break next year.

"Sure we will, babe. I have enough put away for us to..."

"Not with another mouth to feed, especially after they make me take a few months off."

We continued to walk along as my mind processed what she said. The realization she was telling me she was pregnant broke through my thoughts like sunshine on a gray day. Everything gained color and clarity. The world became a different place, and for a moment, I was unable to speak.

"James." She was staring down at her feet as we wandered along the snowy road. "Say something, please. You’re scaring me."

I stopped her and pulled her close. I used my teeth to remove the glove from my right hand and reaching forward, I lightly took her chin between my thumb and fingers. I gently eased her face up to mine, and found her beautiful eyes brimming with tears.

"Hey." I wiped my thumb under her eye, and rolled the tears away before they could run down her cheek. "Do you love me?"

"Of course I do!" I could hear consternation and a little fear in her voice.

"And do you trust that I love you?"

She nodded slowly.

"Then stop crying, and let's celebrate." I reached down and lifted her up. Her legs found the familiar spot around my waist, and she linked her hands behind my neck. Spinning us around and around, I yelled, "We're having a baby!"

Her tears became that gorgeous smile I love with all my heart, and she leaned her head

back as we spun and shouted along with me. "A BABY!"

Max, it looks like you’re going to have to share us, bucko.

My heart felt like it would overflow. The snow no longer even felt cold.

(3)

I stand here and listen to the sound of nothing at all. Everyone else is gone. I'm sure that Tonya is serving cake and coffee at the grange hall by now, but I can't make myself leave just yet. Truth is, I’m terrified. Not of death, but of life.

I never realized how hard it would be to even think about living without you, Ree.

The rain has turned cold, and the sun is much lower in the sky than it was when the service began. I can see the workers; they’re waiting for me to leave. I know they have a job to do. They have to bury my wife.

Those words sound alien in my head; I remember us laughing together, just the other day.

It occurs to me that it wasn’t really days ago. The truth is, it’s been over a month since we had laughed, or even spoken to one another. Over a month since that horrible day she was admitted to the hospital.

At least I know you faced the end with faith, my love. I suppose that's how I will manage to make my way through what's left of my life...

(c) 2016 - dustygrein

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Chapter 1 of When Angels Cry
Written by dustygrein in portal Simon & Schuster
When Angels Cry (part 1)
(1)
I turn my collar up against the pouring rain. I don't feel the water running inside my coat, but I don't seem to feel much of anything. Maybe I just don't want to.

I pull my eyes away from the darkness hiding beneath the clean white lines of the casket, and stare into a future beyond the sea of sad faces. They will all go home, and I will be alone, more alone than I have ever been. I turn my heart away from the pain I see reflected in their eyes.

I can't let that pain get too close. It looks hungry, and I don't think I can survive if it climbs inside. It will eat my soul.

This place seems nice. I think she'll enjoy this hillside, and its beautiful sweep of lawn. I guess I will get used to the view. Not sure what else my life will consist of from now on, but I will keep this place—her place—cared for.

Oh, Ree... the green lawns remind me of that day I finally asked you. Remember?

#

The late summer sun was shining in the cloudless sky. I pulled my sunglasses over my eyes and watched her walk toward me. I felt a lump in my throat, and realized I couldn't swallow. The sunshine wasn't enough to take the slight September chill out of the air, but her smile was all I needed to warm me from the inside out.

Marie Holter. Sweet Marie. Her youngest kid sister calls her Ree-Ree, and I have a feeling Ree will stick. I still can't believe you are here with me. I'm not sure if I found you, or you found me, but I thank God that we found each other.

My nerves threatened to get the better of me. I turned and sat down in the grass. Reaching over, I grabbed a soda from the cooler and opened it as her shadow fell across me.

"I grabbed a big beach towel, instead of a blanket." She shook the largest towel I had ever seen out, and spread it on the grass. "I think lunch will fit on it though."

"Uh, yeah. I'm pretty sure Thanksgiving Dinner would fit on it." Her smile was dazzling.
I started to get up, but she pushed me back onto my butt, climbed across, and straddled my lap. Her arms interlocked behind my neck as she wrapped her legs and those impossibly tight blue jeans around my waist. The smell of her shampoo was driving me insane, and the closeness of her mouth to mine made me dizzy.

"Speaking of Thanksgiving, you better not even think about making any other plans this year. Last night at dinner, Julie asked me if you were coming to the Holter Holiday Hijinks. My mom grinned, and Daddy tried his best to look as if he couldn't care less, but it got really quiet, you know? I mean, even Becca closed her yapper and stared at me."

I reached up and pushed a runaway strand of hair behind her ear. "What did you say?"

"I said that not only would you be there, but I was thinking about having you carve the turkey. You should’ve seen it. Daddy's fork actually stopped halfway to his mouth and my mom spit her wine across her plate. It was the funniest thing ever!"

"Great. Now your dad is going to glare at me even harder the next time I see him."

"Don't be silly. Daddy’s a pushover." She took my face in her hands. "Now, do you wanna keep talking about my family, or can I distract you?"

She leaned in to kiss me, and then threw herself sideways, pulling me on top of her, and rolling us both onto the towel.

Nervously, I slid my hand into my coat pocket. The little box was still there.

Whew. That was almost a disaster, my Ree-Ree.

The time had come, and suddenly the great speech and romantic flourishes I had been practicing were gone. My tongue felt too big for my mouth and I wasn't sure if I could even form words correctly any more.

"Hey, I need to ask you a question."

She must have heard something serious in my voice, because she got the cutest worried look as I sat up. It wasn't until I got on one knee and reached in my pocket that her eyes softened, and then grew large.

"I know that you still have your senior year to finish, and that I don't have much money, or a good job yet, or stuff that makes me worth what you deserve, and I know that Jacobs is kind of a boring last name, and that your family may not even like me, but... well... I..."

She smiled that sweet, sweet smile, and reached out with her finger, placing it against my lips.

"Shh. I’ve been waiting since you started carrying that ring around for you to ask me. Just relax, then calmly and quietly, ask me whatever it is you were going to ask."

I was in shock. She knew about the ring!

She sat back down, folded her legs under her to the side, batted her eyes at me demurely, and folded her hands together.

"Okay" My voice sounded like a rusty tin can being dragged behind a car. I couldn't remember what I was saying a few seconds earlier. I knew I’d planned this whole thing out hundreds of times in my head, but I had nothing. "Uh ... Marry me?"

I'm such an idiot. That was the stupidest proposal ever!

Her expression as she sprang into my arms was almost as welcome as the words she whispered in my ear. "Yes, and I think Jacobs is a lovely last name."

(2)

Most of the people who are here have umbrellas. Black umbrellas. I suppose that's normal for funerals, but we only own a red one. We share it. Well, we used to share it; I guess it's just mine now.

I left it at home.

I can see my daughter, but she won't meet my eyes. I know she hurts. She and her mother were close in a way that she and I never have been. I love Tonya with every fiber of my being, but she and Ree shared what felt like a psychic connection, at least to outsiders like me. When she scraped her knee as a child, I would always kiss it better, but when she got her heart broken or was filled with pride at an accomplishment, her mother was the one she ran to.

I can't kiss this one away, Tonya. I wish I could.

The minister says something, but I can't quite hear his voice. Just a droning sound under the patter of raindrops on stretched black fabric. I notice the tarp that covers the dirt from the hole. I don't want to think about that hole.

What was it you used to say, Ree? "Never dig a hole you aren't prepared to fill?" Something like that.

As I watch Tonya lay her single red rose on top of the white box that now holds the remains of my heart, I can't help but think about the day she told me that the two of us would become three.

#

We walked along the side of the road, as snowflakes fell around us. The world was soft, and the trees wore their new white mantles like fine jewelry. I could tell there was something on Marie's mind. She was unusually withdrawn; it wasn’t like her to be this quiet.

"Hey, Ree, want to have a snowball fight? I bet we could find some great hiding places in the woods."

"No. James, I need to tell you something."

My heart leapt into my throat. James. Not Jimmy, or Jimbo, or even Jim - but James. This was serious. I stopped and reached for her hand, but she grabbed mine first. Squeezing it tightly, she pulled me along with her.

At least you grabbed my hand. I know we will get through this, whatever it is.

"Please, keep walking with me."

My mind began to run through scenarios, each more devastating than the last. Was it the house? A shutoff notice for the power? The dog... was Max okay? He was a 65 pound mix breed who ate twice his weight in kibble each month, but I knew she loved the big lug even more than I did.

"Marie, what's wrong?"

"I know that you’ve been saving money for a trip to Vegas." She wouldn't look at me, and I began to worry even more. "But I don't think we can afford it."

Is THAT all this is? Oh you silly woman!

Marie had a good job waiting tables at a family restaurant here in town, and even though my teacher's salary wasn't a lot, it was more than enough for us to take a trip to Sin City during Spring Break next year.

"Sure we will, babe. I have enough put away for us to..."

"Not with another mouth to feed, especially after they make me take a few months off."

We continued to walk along as my mind processed what she said. The realization she was telling me she was pregnant broke through my thoughts like sunshine on a gray day. Everything gained color and clarity. The world became a different place, and for a moment, I was unable to speak.

"James." She was staring down at her feet as we wandered along the snowy road. "Say something, please. You’re scaring me."

I stopped her and pulled her close. I used my teeth to remove the glove from my right hand and reaching forward, I lightly took her chin between my thumb and fingers. I gently eased her face up to mine, and found her beautiful eyes brimming with tears.

"Hey." I wiped my thumb under her eye, and rolled the tears away before they could run down her cheek. "Do you love me?"

"Of course I do!" I could hear consternation and a little fear in her voice.

"And do you trust that I love you?"

She nodded slowly.

"Then stop crying, and let's celebrate." I reached down and lifted her up. Her legs found the familiar spot around my waist, and she linked her hands behind my neck. Spinning us around and around, I yelled, "We're having a baby!"

Her tears became that gorgeous smile I love with all my heart, and she leaned her head
back as we spun and shouted along with me. "A BABY!"

Max, it looks like you’re going to have to share us, bucko.

My heart felt like it would overflow. The snow no longer even felt cold.

(3)

I stand here and listen to the sound of nothing at all. Everyone else is gone. I'm sure that Tonya is serving cake and coffee at the grange hall by now, but I can't make myself leave just yet. Truth is, I’m terrified. Not of death, but of life.

I never realized how hard it would be to even think about living without you, Ree.

The rain has turned cold, and the sun is much lower in the sky than it was when the service began. I can see the workers; they’re waiting for me to leave. I know they have a job to do. They have to bury my wife.

Those words sound alien in my head; I remember us laughing together, just the other day.

It occurs to me that it wasn’t really days ago. The truth is, it’s been over a month since we had laughed, or even spoken to one another. Over a month since that horrible day she was admitted to the hospital.

At least I know you faced the end with faith, my love. I suppose that's how I will manage to make my way through what's left of my life...

(c) 2016 - dustygrein
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Written by SalingerTwain

I'm doing another prose book. It's called Inside my Mind Vol.2.  I'm not finished yet, but you can still read the first couple of poems. You can also read my first prose book, Inside my Mind. It has nearly 40 different poems and it's free. Enjoy!

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Written by SalingerTwain
I'm doing another prose book. It's called Inside my Mind Vol.2.  I'm not finished yet, but you can still read the first couple of poems. You can also read my first prose book, Inside my Mind. It has nearly 40 different poems and it's free. Enjoy!
26
7
18
Juice
102 reads
Load 18 Comments
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