Endings

all things end…
universes
galaxies
stars
worlds
countries
marriages
friendships
life…

nothing is static…
always changing
evolving
mutating
splitting
birthing
gendering
for better
or worse…

tear it down…
with wars
pollution
suppression
propaganda
cancel-culture
nihilism
bigotry
all colors…

nothing left but…
GMOs
poisoned land
defiled oceans
rotting cities
false outrage
trigger warnings
unschooled children
melting snowflakes

until…
no one can breath
eat healthily
drink clean water
walk unafraid
speak unafraid
pray unafraid…
our poor world
is on life support…

© 2020 KT Workman

Flying

When we left the city, there had been seventy-three of us. Now we were nineteen.

And the armadogs were closing in.

The armadogs were silent stalkers. They didn’t howl or bark like their biological counterparts, and unless they were close, you couldn’t hear them. Their big, spongy footpads absorbed sound on both grass and dirt. They communicated with each other and their controllers via Service-Web, and humans had never had access to Service-Web. Why would we need or want to know all the mundane details that kept our workers working?

Darcy fell into step beside me. “Jimmy says they’re less than four hundred meters behind,” she said. “We need to find a place we can defend, Shelia.”

I glanced at her face, a pale smudge in the grey, early-morning light. The bandage around her head was seeping blood again. But no time now to stop and change it.

“How much firepower do we have left?” I asked, not breaking the fast trot we had been moving at most of the night.

“Two flame pistols still have a charge. And one scrambler, but it’s low. A few grenades. We have tons of bullets, but well, you know…”

Yes, I knew. Bullets rarely stopped an armadog. “Be on the lookout for a place to take cover. And tell Jimmy to let me know when they’re within two hundred meters.” Then we would have to make a stand regardless. Continue reading Flying

Poker Face

his familiar face…earnest, free of artifice
or perhaps cunningly cloaked instead
constructs expressions conveying love and sincerity
and I’m so easily led

and his smile…warm and pious and bright
could effortlessly pull me under
choppy waves of helplessness, hopelessness
and tear my heart asunder

if I dare gaze deep into his inscrutable eyes
just what will I see…
true love and honesty and loyalty
or trust’s death looking back at me

I wonder…

if I strip the skin from his poker face
tear off his smiling lips
pluck out his beguiling eyes
until all that’s left is bone and blood’s drip

what would I find…

©️2020 KT Workman

I Was So Much Younger Then…

I’ve had a song stuck in my head, on endless loop, since it popped up on my playlist during my afternoon walk yesterday. That song is “My Back Pages,” written by Bob Dylan, sang by The Byrds. Dylan recorded it first in 1964 on his album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, but it’s The Byrds’ rendition released in 1967 that I’m most familiar with. And like the best. Dylan was a hell of a poet-songwriter, a master wordsmith, but his singing left something to be desired—in my opinion.

The reoccurring line “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” in “My Back Pages” brings to mind something my daddy told me long ago, something to the effect that the older he gets, the less he knows. When I was a young adult, I didn’t get the meaning of his words, even though at the time, I thought I knew everything. As I grew older, though, I understood that as one matures, one becomes aware there’s so much they don’t know, and what one thought they knew, was often wrong, assumptions based on missing or faulty information. And along with the understanding, realized that in our youth, most of us believe “…lies that life is black and white…” (another line from the song). That’s when I began to think for myself.

The song also got me thinking about the current state of pop music—and I include country because it has devolved into pop. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there’s still good singers and songs out there, they’re just few and far between. Think Maggie Rose and Ryan Bingham, two artists who I think are highly underrated unless you like your music to all sound the same.

60s and 70s music has soul. And to a lesser extent, so do the offerings from the 80s and 90s. But somewhere around the turn of the century, music lost its way, began to sound canned, so to speak, as if it all came out of the same place. Nowhere is the difference more apparent than songs with a message; here, the disparity is quite clear. Let’s compare the lyrics of “My Back Pages” with Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down”—

"My Back Pages"

Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ‘neath heated brow
Ah,but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull, I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.

Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy

To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.

A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke their word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.

In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My existence led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.

Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now.

"You Need To Calm Down"

You are somebody that I don’t know
But you’re taking shots at me like it’s Patrón
And I’m just like, “Damn!

It’s 7 AM”
Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out
But you say it in a tweet, that’s a cop-out
And I’m just like, “Hey!

Are you OK?”

And I ain’t tryna mess with your self-expression
But I’ve learned the lesson that stressing and obsessing
‘Bout somebody else is no fun
And snakes and stones never broke my bones

So, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to calm down
You’re being too loud
And I’m just like

“Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to just stop
Like, can you just not step on my gown?
You need to calm down”

You are somebody that we don’t know
But you’re coming at my friends like a missile
Why are you mad
When you could be GLAAD?

(You could be GLAAD)

Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark ages
Just making that sign
Must’ve taken all night

You just need to take several seats
And then try to restore the peace
And control your urges to scream
About all the people you hate
‘Cause shade never made anybody less gay

So, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to calm down
You’re being too loud
And I’m just like

“Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to just stop
Like, can you just not step on his gown
You need to calm down”

And we see you over there on the Internet
Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you out
We all know now
We all got crowns
You need to calm down

Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to calm down

(You need to calm down)
You’re being too loud

(You’re being too loud)
And I’m just like

“Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh!
You need to just stop

(Can you stop?)
Like can you just not step on our gowns
You need to calm down

“My Back Pages” reads like poetry written by a thinking adult while “You Need to Calm Down” sounds like a child’s scribbles. I’m not running down Taylor Swift, she’s preaching to the choir; she’s a savvy businesswoman, knows what her fans want to hear. But tell me this—which song will pass the test of time? (Hint, one already has.)
What has happened to originality? What has happened to heart and soul? Where the hell has it gone? And what has happened to our youth that they accept this pablum? Why don’t they demand more from their songwriters/storytellers/singers?

Or is it just that, like the generations before me, I think everything was better in The Good Old Days of my youth? Hmmm…

Naw, the music sucks.

©️2020 KT Workman

This version contains the two verses not included in the Byrds’ cover:


	

Cargo

Martin took the squirming bundle from Mrs. Kenny and balanced it on top of the others in his wagon. It was a good thing that this was the last house on his route since his wagon was full, overfull in fact. He would have to go easy to keep from losing any of his cargo.

“Thank you, dear,” the old woman said, ruffling his hair. “I have something else for you…hold on.” She hobbled back inside, emerging moments later holding out two cookies. “They’re chocolate chip, except there’re no chips. I ran out, and well, you know…”

Yes, Martin knew—when the town’s supply of something ran out, if they couldn’t make or grow it, there’d be no more. “I’m sure they’re fine, ma’am.”

“Take one home to your little brother,” she said.

“I will, ma’am. And thank you.” He slipped the cookies into his shirt pocket. “I’d best be getting on, not long till dark.”

“You do that, Martin. And be careful.” Continue reading Cargo

She’s Gonna Blow!

I see it’s been a while since I posted—close to two months, in fact. As to why I’ve been remiss, as I told a fellow blogger, I just haven’t been in the mood to post. And when I started this blog (my fourth), I made myself a promise I wouldn’t force myself to post, that I would only do so when inspiration struck. My previous blogs got mired down because they began to feel like a job: I had to show up at the appointed time and produce or some calamitous event might occur. I’ve never been good with that. Too much pressure. I held down a job for many years and was seldom absent, but in that context, calamity would strike if I didn’t show. Things like losing my house or vehicle, not eating, and such. A blog is another kettle of fish…or whatever.

Shortly after my last post, this whole Covid-19 thing reared its ugly, diseased head. I was in the middle of writing a short story set on an alternate Earth (I’ve written five with the same setting) that just kept going and going, so I decided to take some time off WordPress to complete it. The thing ended up in novelette territory—over 17,000 words. I’m not quite sure what to do with it. Should I send it out to magazines, a process that might take months (or never) to place, with little payment for my time? Publish it in installments here? Shove it in a drawer and forget about it? Any suggestions?

Anyway, after completing the story, my creative juices flowed in another direction. Two directions actually: baking and sewing. In the baking department, I made yeast breads, quick breads, muffins, and other goodies, things I’m an old hand at, before deciding I wanted to try something I haven’t before: sourdough bread. And to make the bread, I needed a starter. I’m trying to grow my own, and so far, have killed one, water too warm, I think, and am now attempting another. I have bubbles and growth, so I think (hope) I’m on the right track.

 

As for sewing, I learned the how-to on my mama’s old Singer treadle machine when I was a wee one, probably younger than ten. I’m not sure about the age but remember making doll clothes on it. And for a good part of my adult life, I continued to sew off and on, but quite a few years ago, except for mending, I stopped. To be honest, I hadn’t broken out my machine for any reason in probably 8 or 10 years, then I couldn’t find the face masks we were all told to wear, no way, no how. No problem, I thought, I’ll make them.

You should have heard my poor machine when I put the pedal to the metal—squeak, squeak, squeak. But I persevered, stitching along a piece of scrap fabric, turn, stitch another row, again and again until my machine was sewing as smoothly and quietly as it had when it had been put out to pasture so many years ago. I would expect no less from a Singer.

To my surprise, I enjoyed making the masks, so much so that I’m now itching to make something. Anything! I need new potholders, so I think I’ll make a few to get back in practice, then move on to something bigger. I haven’t decided yet what that might be, but being mostly housebound for the foreseeable future, I’ve got to come up with something to keep myself occupied and in a different room than Husband. Our marriage may depend on it.

In this time of rabid intolerance, can you imagine being married to someone whose political views are the opposite of yours? Okay, before Covid-19 this was manageable, just don’t talk politics. But with the cable news networks now blasting information/disinformation 24/7, Husband has been stressing out. Combine that with his ongoing TDS, and you have a powder keg about to blow. I’ve already gotten scorched a few times.

Baking, sewing, writing, a lot of reading…what else can I find to do indoors? In another room from Husband, of course.

©️2020 KT Workman

 

Pearls Before Swine / Part Three

Part three of three…

When I stepped into the house after returning the handsaw, a bolt of pain stabbed my lower belly. I crammed the hurt into that dark, crowded place deep inside that Mama couldn’t see, and tended to Sissy. I stripped the smelly clothes from her body, washed her as best I could, then pulled her favorite pink nightgown over her head, all the while talking slowly and softly. I knew she heard me. She stood when I told her to, held up her hands when I said so, but not one word passed her white lips.

Meanwhile, Mama fed thin slats of wood into the cookstove until the thing danced with heat. Sweat ran down her face and soaked the white collar of her dress, turning it pink.

“Put your sister to bed,” she said over her shoulder. “Then come get yourself cleaned up.”

I led Sissy into the little room off the kitchen, and tucked her into the bed we shared. “I’ll be back soon.” No answer from my sister. She rolled over and faced the wall, and I knew if I had looked, her eyes would still be open. “Everything’s gonna be all right. You’re just having a bad dream, and when you wake up in the morning, you won’t even remember it. Just a dream, that’s all.”

“Clara!” Mama yelled.

I wanted nothing more than to crawl into the bed next to Sissy and sleep for days. I was worn out, and my belly hurt real bad. Instead, I patted her shoulder and walked back out into the nightmare. Continue reading Pearls Before Swine / Part Three

Pearls Before Swine / Part Two

Part two of three…

“What’s going on here?” Mama said, running her hand over Sissy’s fat belly.

Sissy shrugged her shoulders. “I et too much, I reckon.”

“Don’t sass me, gal.” The back of Mama’s hand cracked across my sister’s face. The blow had a lot of power behind it, knocked Sissy on her butt.

“I’m sorry, Mama.” Sissy cupped her red cheek. “I won’t do it no more.” There hadn’t been any sass in Sissy’s words, but she knew better than to go against Mama. I did too. Since Daddy’d died, Mama had gotten mean and hateful.

“Now I’m gonna ask you one more time—who did this to you?”

Tears trickled down Sissy’s cheeks. She trembled. “I…I don’t know wh…what you mean.”

Mama planted her fists on her ample hips. She looked down at Sissy and shook her head. “Are you that ignorant…you really don’t know?”

Sissy said nothing, just sat on the floor with her head bent, wisps of corn-silk hair sticking to her wet face.

“Get up,” Mama ordered.

Sissy bolted to her feet, a mess of scared-shakes and sniffles.

“You’re pregnant, got a baby in your belly,” Mama said. “Now what I wanna know is what boy put his pecker inside you and got you that way.” Continue reading Pearls Before Swine / Part Two

Pearls Before Swine

Part one of three…

I woke in the dark to squeals and yells and thumps and bangs. From somewhere inside the house, Daddy rattled off a string of cuss words, then hollered: “Get the shotgun, Lizzy, something’s got in with the hogs!”

The awfulest commotion was going on outside. It sounded like every pig on the place was pitching a holy fit.

“What is it, Clara?” Sissy asked.

“I don’t know…” I turned back the covers.

She grabbed my arm. “Where’re you going?”

“To see what all the racket’s about.”

Sissy’s fingers dug deeper. “What if it’s the boogeyman?”

I pulled my arm away. “There ain’t no such thing, and you know it.”

My feet hit the floor, and I made a beeline for the slash of light knifing in underneath the closed door, Sissy’s night-breath a hot prickle on the back of my neck. My fingers curled around the doorknob, twisted and pushed.

Light blazed from the 100-watt bulb dangling on the end of the thick, black wire snaking down from the kitchen ceiling, briefly catching Mama and Daddy as they rushed out the back door. I chased after them, Sissy on my heels.

The lantern held high in one hand, the tail of her nightgown in the other, Mama ran neck and neck with Daddy across the back yard and through the gate.

Dewey appeared inside the bouncing circle of light. Mama let out a startled “Oh!” and Daddy a “Jesus Christ!” and we all skidded to a stop.

“Don’t you be going down there, Mr. Primrose,” Dewey said, his eyes all big and wild looking. His oily brown hair stuck out this way and that. Only one gallous of his overalls was fastened; the other flopped down over his scrawny belly. “It’s dangerous. There’s demons loose tonight.” Continue reading Pearls Before Swine

Distressed Damsel

the damsel strolls in step with the night
snuggly swaddled in its ebony cloak
it has always been her one true friend
her moonstruck muse, whom she often misquotes

she scribbles her wishes on its blank black canvass
staples her dreams to the backs of dingy doves
nails her hopes to the wings of ravens
and sends them all to the stars above

she grimly dances with detestable devils
a wild, wicked waltz of spreading blight
hoots and howls at the muddy moon
scares away all the shiny white knights

©️2020 KT Workman

Fudge Making

When I was growing up, store-bought snacks were a rare treat. We ate the proverbial three square meals a day, occasionally topped off with homemade yeast rolls, a cake, fruit cobbler, or my favorite: banana pudding. Then there was mellorine, popcorn, and fudge, our main snacks.

In case y’all don’t know, mellorine is imitation ice cream, and according to Britannica, it is “made with less expensive vegetable oils instead of butterfat but utilizes dairy ingredients for the milk protein part.” (I haven’t seen it in stores in years, but think it’s still available in some areas.) I suppose Mama reasoned that if you have a houseful of kids and must make every penny count, cheaper imitation ice cream is better than no ice cream at all. My young self would have agreed; she loved the Neapolitan.

Mama used the big aluminum pan she cooked beans to pop the popcorn. She poured in a bit of Mazola corn oil when the pan got hot, then added the corn kernels, and a sprinkling of salt. Next, the lid went on, and it was shake, shake, shake until the popping stopped. It was a bunch of popcorn, requiring a large dishpan to hold it all. Us kids and Daddy (if he were home) made short work of it. Hopefully, Mama got a little too.

Then there was the fudge…made from scratch with Hershey’s Cocoa, a staple in Mama’s kitchen that’s still available today. The candy required only six ingredients, seven if you counted the nuts, but I wouldn’t say it was simple to make, especially if one didn’t have a candy thermometer, which we didn’t. I remember watching Mama and my older sisters mixing, boiling, and stirring, the stirring going on for quite some time.

We had a large black walnut tree in our yard that provided nuts for the fudge; but getting enough for a batch was as time-consuming as all the stirring. Black walnut shells are hard and thick, and when one finally cracks it open, fishing out the nuts is no easy task. We used a clean bobby pin to dig and gouge out the small morsels, breaking them into even smaller pieces in the extraction process. Fingers were stained, and patience was tested, but it was all worth it; the black walnuts transformed ordinary fudge into a gourmet delight.

My memory is a sketchy thing, recalling little about the first time I made fudge. But I do remember the aftermath: the candy didn’t set. I was so disappointed.

In her own sweet way, Mama lifted my spirits, turned a disaster (to me) into a cherished memory. She told me it didn’t matter, that the fudge would taste just as good eaten with a spoon. And in my mind’s eye, I can still see her and me doing just that: sitting in front of the fireplace, each with our own spoon, passing the pan of half-set fudge back and forth.

Down through the years, there were quite a few instances Mama kindly pointed out that something, which seemed important to me at the time, didn’t matter in the overall scheme of things. More often than not, especially when I was young, I didn’t grasp what she was trying to tell me; I had to get quite a bit older for it to sink in, for me to realize that most of the things I studied on and worried about really didn’t matter. But at least when it came to the runny fudge, when she and I were scraping it up with our spoons, I knew she was right: it didn’t matter, not one little bit.

Click here for fudge recipe

©️2020 KT Workman

Image via Pixabay

Love Hurts

John Parker stepped into his pants, glanced back at the woman sleeping in the bed he had just vacated. And the guilt hit him. Why did he do it? Why did he have to nail some bimbo he’d just met when he had a beautiful, willing wife at home?

He never failed to question his actions after the fact. But never before. When he met a pretty young thing, every thought in his head was crowded out by the one imperative: get her in the sack. And since he fit all the prerequisites—tall, dark, handsome, successful—most A-list women had tucked away in their minds when eyeing a potential hookup, he seldom struck out. It was just so damn easy.

He left three hundred bucks, cab fare plus a little something extra, on the bedside table, and after looking around to see if he’d left anything behind, slipped quietly out the door. He hated goodbyes, some more than others. That’s how he’d ended up married to Liv: he couldn’t tell her goodbye.

Night had slipped over the city while he and Tanya…Tonya, something like that, had played beneath the covers. Liv would be home by now. But he always had the old standby of working late; it had never failed him. She knew his job sometimes required long or odd hours. And she loved him, trusted him.

He felt the guilt niggling at the edge of his thoughts again, pushed it away. After all, he didn’t love those other women, it was nothing, just sex. In his heart, he was true to Liv.

She was waiting when he got home, a smile on her face and his favorite, a dry martini, in her hand. She took his briefcase and jacket. “Working late?” At his eye roll and nod, her red lips curved into a luscious pout. “Poor baby.”

His appreciative eyes followed her as she glided down the entryway. Tendrils of her thick, black hair had escaped its artfully arranged messy bun, brushing the tanned shoulders visible through the diaphanous, white dressing gown that did little to hide her long, lithe, perfect body.

She placed his jacket and briefcase on the small table near the bottom of the staircase, turned, and beckoned with a crooked finger. John recognized that look, the saucy smile, and knew what she wanted. The question was, was he up to the task? But as he strolled toward her, then stepped into her arms, that worry was put to rest.

He nuzzled her neck, breathed in the exotic, musky scent that was all Liv. Slowly, deliberately, he eased aside the white fabric, kissed the small, red birthmark at the base of her throat. “I’ll take a quick shower…” His hand covered a breast. “…then we can get down to business.”

Her hands moved over his back. One glided up, tangled in his hair, turned his head. Lips brushing his ear, she said, “There’s no need for a shower, love.” She nibbled the lobe. “Just like the others, I’ll still smell her stink after you wash.”

He started, pulled back. “Wh…what?” How could she have known? No, no, she couldn’t have known. No way. He was too careful. He relaxed, grinned. “You’re such a tease.”

She looked up at him, eyes heavy with desire. “Am I now?” She leaned into him, kissed his jawline.

John closed his eyes, his sigh turning into a moan when he felt her teeth rake his skin. Then she bit down. Hard. “Ouch!” He jerked away, his hand going to the side of his neck and coming back smeared with blood. “What the hell?” He took in her flushed face, glittering eyes, and blood-smeared mouth, and at that moment, he wanted her more than he ever had before. “Wanna play rough, do you?” He grabbed her arm, yanked her hard against him. “I can handle that.”

Using a fistful of her hair, he yanked back her head, ground his lips against hers. Her arms circled him, clawed at his back. Through a fog of lust, John idly thought how exceptionally strong her arms were, and how rough they felt, and how they reached everywhere—his head, shoulders, lower back, butt cheeks, thighs…calves. Calves? Calves!

He pushed weakly against her, swayed, and would have fallen if she hadn’t been holding onto him. He tried to back away, but his legs refused to cooperate. Nothing on his body wanted to work. Except for his vision. And when he saw his wife, horror rose inside him, squeezing what little breath he had left from his lungs. If he had been able, he would have screamed. And screamed and screamed.

Liv wasn’t Liv anymore. Two additional sets of bristly arms sprouted from her sides and hips that had bloated obscenely. Eight blue eyes instead of two stared back at him. Her face had rounded, her nose had disappeared, and her mouth was much smaller. Which was why he couldn’t understand how it could open so wide…so wide it easily snapped over his head.

He could no longer see as Liv pulled his headless corpse up the stairs and down the hall to their bedroom. He felt nothing as she opened the closet and flung him onto her web. He knew nothing as she injected digestive juices into his cooling body, and her babies eagerly swarmed over the collapsing husk that had once been John Parker.

Liv knew he had been a terrible husband. But to his credit, he was a tasty meal.

©️2020 KT Workman