Successor

Bars was good at holding it in. He could really blow when he wanted, a blast of rancid wind called at will.

Of course, his audience egged and encouraged. So much glory in heralding the disgusting traits of walking upright, being foul under the sun.

Bars had no family, save the little girl that followed him wherever, whenever. He didn’t quite know her name, though she frequented most of his resting spots where he’d proclaim his talents.

“Here,” he said among a crowd of six. “Who’s brave enough to come closer?”

Heads bobbled and craned, onlookers uncertain of what their place was here on the corner of Broadway and Commerce.

“I only need one,” Bars said. He twirled a finger up into the air and then rolled it downward, a motion congruous with his awkward bow toward the onlookers.

“What do you?” a patron asked. This one was a small boy, his neck goosed up over the shoulders of the other five, his young eyes straining to leer at Bars. Or was it the girl the young boy was asking of?

“I merely tempt the brave to come forward and witness the miracle of my talents, young man” Bars said, peeling his lips back to show smiling, white teeth.

“Here now,” the boy said. “What’s she to do with ya?”

Bars frowned. “This one?”

He put a hand on the small girl’s shoulder, herding her in front of him. “What’s she to do with me, you ask?”

“You’re as dumb as you are ugly,” said the boy. “But you know what I mean, plain as I said. What’s she to you?”

Bars looked down at the girl — the girl leaning back her head to meet the puzzled gaze above. She had been there at nearly all of his gatherings over the past few months. Watching. Listening.

“I’m his fire,” the young girl said.

“You’re his what?” the boy said, stepping in closer to the man and girl.

Bars cleared his throat. “Now look, boy. I am a street performer. A man who revels in the arts of flatulence. Surely one as you can understand the beauty and humor of such arts?”

The small crowd murmured with approbation, though Bars was used to hearing more noises of anticipated approval before his climactic surge.

“I think you false,” the boy said. He pointed at the girl next to Bars, the boy’s fingers jabbing at the girl’s hair blown wild from the gusts around her. “She be the real farter.”

Laughter erupted from the onlookers. Bars grunted. “Now see here, boy. It is you who speak false.”

“Is it?” the boy dared. “Have you two show your goods, then.”

More murmurs of unrest. Bars sighed. This was not going as he wished. He would need more steam from within to woo these people, to be sure.

“As you will, boy,” he said. “A contest, then.”

“You mock me, sir,” said the boy. “She’ll not do while you stand upright.”

Bars goggled at this, his eyes then scrunching with perplexity. “Do you ask me to lie while practicing the arts?”

“You mean the farts,” the boy corrected. More laughter.

Bars looked down at the girl, her eyes knowing.

Without warning, the young girl bent forward and blew her trumpet sound across the stagnant air.

Four of the onlookers collapsed instantly to the ground, including the boy, all of them covering their faces to shield away the sound and smell.

The Maker!  Bars thought. Such power in this child!

Silence.

Bars walked slowly toward the panting girl, her eyes now looking at him with hopefulness. He then turned to see the boy’s eyes reel in their inflamed sockets, a spiral of brown and white swirling within reddened eyelids, eventually resting to wide ‘O’s of surprise.

“She is done,” Bars said dryly, hoping to temper his amazement. “Now.”

He raised his hand and bent in slight bow. “’Tis my turn.”

Bars strained, his abdomen crunching underneath his bellyfat. He would let loose years of untapped gas that came from the very source of his soul.

“No, sir!” the girl screamed, understanding on her face. “You dasn’t.”

“Oh, but I das,” Bars said, sweat pouring hot from his temples. The ripping had finally come.

The air grew thick, reeking of sweet rotting meat. Only… only, Bars could not stop.

He grabbed at the girl. “Help me, child. Help me!”

“To…” the girl hesitated, covering her nose with doll hands. “To you, sir. I cannot. Please stop!”

“I cannot, girl” Bars cried. He fell to the ground, convulsing as if in apoplexy before shuddering to stillness. “I have done my last, good girl.”

He rolled on the ground, writhing as songs continued to dance from his bottom. Songs of tomorrow, sulfuric and noisome.

When he was done, he breathed in what was set loose in the air, closing his eyes.

“Do you know the price for what I do?” he asked the girl looming over his body.

“Aye sir, that I do.”

Bars held his dying breath to say his final words to his successor.

“Then let go, child.

Let go.”

 

THE END

 

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Love. Always. Wins.

All newborn babies are cute little things, right?

No?

Not all newborn babies?

Oh, I see.

Yeah, that wrinkly alien-thing with the one eye open.

Ooh. And that one with what looks like pubic hair on its head.

And that. Clean yourself up, you icky thing.

Okay, so not all newborn babies are the cutest thing known to humankind.

Oh, but look at them.

Aw.

All together in the nursery. Quiet and content. Even that colicky one over there in the corner.

They are precious, aren’t they?
When I was a wee lad living in the poorer parts of middle Tennessee, I was scooped up every Wednesday night by a battered van filled sporadically with churchgoing kids.

What I remember most on those Wednesday night children services was that I was the ‘yellow’ kid.

As the song went: Red, yellow, black, and white. They are precious in our sight.

The preacher would line us ethnically diverse kids up in front of the congregation. My sole job was to stand still between the Native American (The ‘Injun’ as she was so pleasantly called) and my buddy, who just happened to be blackish.

When those lyrics hit the air, the preacher would touch our heads in succession: Red; Yellow; Black; White.

It was a dirty job, but I did it well. With no perspective.

Okay, the mid-70s were a shocking mixture of mundane-meets-offensive. Don’t believe me? Just watch an early episode of ‘All in the Family’ and see how many times you can count the word ‘nigger’.

But years later, here I am trying to put in all into perspective and all I can think about are the babies in that nursery room.

All those babies in that nursery room, cooing, crying, or pooping. They actually have no real agenda. No real political motives.

It’s so trite of a thing to write about. The innocence of children.

But look at that crowd of hatemongers. Those grown-ups. Imagine them in that nursery. Not yet walking. Not yet talking. That’s them. Those grown-ups full of self-validated hatred. They were once in that nursery. Holding their own feet. Their diapers full of shit and piss. Their mouths aching for the nipple, plastic or real. Their eyes open to what the world offers.

We gathered as babies. Surpassing the insurmountable odds of not being born. Only to grow up adding hatred to the world.

Adding sorrow to our nursery.

It’s a contribution that takes away contribution.

If it’s your right to prolong a hatred for another newborn that just happens to share the nursery room with you, know that you were once like that other newborn. Struggling to become alive. Seeking love first. Seeking comfort and safety.

Seeking each other.

 

Love. Always. Win.

 

JLT

Write. Move. Write.

Wow.

Life. Yeah.

You know, man.

It, like, totally changes.

From time to time.

Like all the time. (giggle)

And cut…

I suck at acting.

But I’m great at pretending. Like, yeah. I’m pretending to write at this moment.

It’s true. Life changes. Totally. All. The. Time.

Old house sold.

New house bought.

Moving. Packing. Drinking. Packing. Drinking. Unpacking. Drinking. Drinking. Drinking. Drin…

And what do you know. It’s been like forever since I’ve put word to blank white. I am miserable and sorry for it. But what can I say. Life, man. Like all the time.

My daughter, a soon-to-be-tales-of-a-fourth-grader, has put more to paper than I have in the past six months. At least I can use the George R.R. Martin excuse. These stories will be finished when they are finished. You can’t rush writing.

Big fat ‘but’

When going through prolonged periods without writing, I get cramps. Okay. No. But I get feelings of guilt, dissatisfaction, irritability, and anxiety. I guess I know what I’ll feel like on my deathbed + pain of dying.

And you know what? That means I’m going to be okay. Because I’ll write again. One. Day. In the meantime, I get to read all of your lovelies. Your blogs. Your stories. Your labors of love. You. Yes, You. And from that I say: Thank you! Because your works are a bridge for me getting back to my own works.

Praise to you and yours.

JLT

 

(oh and Happy Birthday to me!)

 

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Good Beginnings: Fair Shopping

Good beginnings.

It’s something so delicious and delicate.

And dangerous.

Zipper down. Spinach-infested smiles. Eye boogers. Toilet paper stuck to… well, just stuck.

First impression failures line my history well.

Then there are those winning first shots.

Wind causes hair to blow lavishly behind face. Sunlight making eyes radiant. Body odor: good.

Point being, good beginnings can happen as random as bad ones.

And when it comes to good beginnings with stories, I have bucketloads. Trunk-novel-loads, in fact. Many still stuck in the mucus of my hippocampus.

What to do with good story beginnings? Write long epic novels, of course.

The frustrating part about these good story beginnings is that they don’t always promise a good long ending.

That’s what happened to my short story ‘Fair Shopping.’

It was supposed to be epic in length. An odyssey that stands ageless and full of action and intrigue.

Yeah… that didn’t happen past chapter four. Damn story.

It wanted to write itself into the truncated form it is now, the stubborn thing.

No! I want espionage. End-of-the-world cataclysm. Perspective of our current throes into modern potential warfare.

But the damned story kicked me out and said this is what will happen instead. It defied pantsing. It defied outlines.

So, I let it do its thing and write itself out.

What was supposed to be a brick of a novel became a short dive into horror for a young couple on their way to a town fair.

So happy the folks at Spectral Press liked this good beginning that wanted it to go as short as it wanted to.

‘Fair Shopping’ will be part of the fifth anthology of Spectral Book of Horrors, a wonderful series to be part of in my opinion.

Coming soon in the fall.

Hooray for good beginnings!

 

JLT

Touch

Look at your hand (hopefully, you have one).

Flex it. Curl your fingers inward and touch your palm with your fingertips. Open it. Spread your fingers and let your hand expand flat in the air in front of you.

Touch forefinger to thumb.

Turn your hand palm down and make a fist. Look at the mess of knuckles bulging from your skin.

Now clasp hands together and squeeze slightly. Let go and just stare at a hand until you feel the perplexity of the limb in front of you.

You are looking at a part of your body. You are looking at an extension of yourself consisting of near-infinite amounts of particles put together and fired by the will of your mind.

You don’t see the bone and sinew underneath the sheath of skin, but know that there is a miracle to your machinery. It’s a reality you take for granted now but once was fascinated by with infant eyes.

The hand exists for you.

Use it to touch others that you love.

Feel their existence.

And know how strange and wonderful this ability is

to touch until you cannot touch anymore.

For one day the use of your touch will be gone forever…

Touch while you can.

JLT

black-and-white-hands-photo-1

Roommates

Finally.

You’re awake.

Yeah. It’s crazy.

We’re locked up in a room together.

You. Me. That stranger huddling against the wall.

You can stop searching. I’ve already tried. For hours. There’s no way out of this place. This room. It’s really more of a box, actually.

You, I know. I’ve seen you before. Once or twice.

I got you. Get you, I mean. That stranger over there, I don’t know. And I’m nervous because it’s just sitting there quietly in the corner rocking back and forth — hiding its face from us.

I was thinking of getting up and poking it on the shoulder, but I don’t know what it will do to me. You want to give it a try?

Here. Take this. In case it tries to attack, you can defend yourself against it — whatever it is.

Don’t look at me. I don’t want to touch it.

Is the room getting smaller?

Seriously.

Did you hear that? It said something, I think.

I have no idea.

It smells…funny. No, I’m not being mean. It smells different. Well, you smell different, too. But I don’t like the way it smells. Or looks. It’s so…not right.

Why?

Why did you just do that?

Make it stop. Make it stop crying!

Stop it! Shut up! SHUT UP!

What? No. I can’t believe you. Why did you do that? Don’t touch me. Please. Just stay away from me.

Why did you have to kill it? Why?

I know what I said. I just…

I didn’t know what it was.

I just didn’t know.

THE END

© Jack Lee Taylor 2017

 

trauma

 

Ill Met

I don’t know you.

The softness between the ridges of bone. Tender spots I’ll never know.

Was it a fleeting glance, or a rotting glare?

Maybe a bump against shoulders. A middle finger shared between cars.

How could it be from so much distance that we are strangers?

You and your language — I don’t understand it.

Your peace and fury — so different from mine.

Even with separate mothers and fathers, and all that makes us different…

do you long for a smile from me?

Do you wish for revelation as to why you are there and I am here?

We eat and breathe. We sleep and dream.

We die.

But all of it never at the same time.

Sea foam splashing on the crags; our tides ripple with different paces.

And the ghost of chance bites us with cold teeth.

In that second of warmth, could we find each other?

Or else, pass one another waving arms, faces full of tears and thoughts of what might have been?

The answer to these questions are revealed with time.

A time without you.