I Was A Man Who Breathed

match_fire_smoke_close-up_82991_1920x1080 (1)

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve had a story published. I’m excited grateful to announce that my story I Was A Man Who Breathed was published by the wonderful FlashBack Fiction today. A big thank you to the editors for help in shaping my story.

You can read and listen to my story here

 

 

 

Fiona & Glen

smokey-heart-clipart

My story about a sad man and his cat is up at Twisted Sister. A huge thank you to the staff for publishing my goofy tale in their Valentine’s Day issue. On a day when men show their love via gas station roses and last minute cheap chocolate from Walgreens, you can dive into some weird, depressing flash fiction. Huzzah!

You can read my story here

Star Spangled Blather

Colin-Kaepernick-stare-getty-640x480

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

― Elie Wiesel

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, chose not to stand for the national anthem during an exhibition game. He gave a rational and profound reason for doing so. He broke no law. He exercised his 1st amendment right. He did not physically assault anyone. He did not murder anyone. And, as expected, white folks blew a gasket. They took to social media and eviscerated him with an antiquated savagery usually reserved for the worst of the worst in our society. His crime? Not standing for a silly song. Insanity. Four out of thousands of horrific tweets are below. It was a like a digital KKK meeting. 

20160906_165222

 

The connection between sporting events, nationalism, and the worship of all things military is baffling to me. We take our families to enjoy a day at the stadium and feast on nachos, hot dogs, and the physical prowess of our favorite players. We root root root for the home team. Or, in my case, the away team because I’m a rabid fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Nationals. We indulge in over-priced beer with our friends. We escape the monotony of life by distracting ourselves with a dose of loyal, authentic fandom. The last thing on our minds should be empty, worthless gestures of patriotism. We shouldn’t be forced to take part in a ritual that has nothing to do with blasting home runs, tossing a touchdown, or eating popcorn and snow cones.

Standing for a song written by a massive racist slave owner, Francis Scott Key, might seem patriotic to a majority of folks. And those same folks probably have zero empathy for the plight of black Americans, how being oppressed for centuries impacts and changes your vision of this country and its customs, its white privileged patriotism. How exactly does a song show devotion to your country? How does standing up like a sheep highlight your respect for veterans? Ask yourself why you stand during the national anthem. Could it be you’ve been programmed since you were a child to stand at football games? Do you also play the anthem when you’re at home chilling on the couch? Do you play the anthem when you go to church? Do you play the anthem at a wedding? Do you play the anthem when you’re at work? No, but you must stand at a Bengals game on a lazy Sunday or you’re disrespecting veterans and your beloved USA. Please.

Colin Kaepernick is a courageous man. He said no to tradition. He said no to having senseless pride in a bigoted song. And why did he decide to protest?

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He wanted to shine a spotlight on police brutality, the unjust treatment of blacks by those in positions of authority. If you read his quote and still think he was wrong, then shame on you. The racists love to say that black folks, especially the #BlackLivesMatter movement, are too violent when they protest. They burn cities to the ground! They assault innocent people! They loot! Well, Colin Kaepernick protested peacefully and quietly and white America still raged. It makes not a bit of sense.

I have respect for veterans. I understand and appreciate the service they’ve provided for our country. They fight and protect while I read and write. I would never question their bravery and character. But coercing us to honor them at sporting events is beyond the pale. If you truly want to show your pride and/or admiration, why not send a care package overseas to military personnel? Why not donate money and time to help veterans who struggle when they return home? Many suffer from PTSD and addiction, and some end up on the streets. Help them if you’re so concerned about saluting veterans. But no, folks would rather trash a football player than actually do something positive. Race, as always, plays a significant role in how we digest a situation and react to it. In 2016, we’re annihilating a man for the inspiring act of remaining true to his longstanding personal convictions. White folks hate when a black man/woman speaks out, especially when they also refuse to bleed red, white, and blue just because it’s some warped artificial tradition.

We are not obligated to do anything, we are a free people. Don’t walk with the herd, don’t drink from the community well. Voice your beliefs without being concerned with the opinions and ridicule of others. Veterans deserve respect, as do teachers, mental health workers, philosophers, scientists, artists, Colin Kaepernick, and so many others. There’s room on the pedestal for folks not wearing camouflage and medals.

Love your country and military with the entirety of your heart if that’s your thing. But don’t mock and denigrate others who may not share your fervor for a nation with a history steeped in rampant prejudice.

 

 

 

 

Sirens Everywhere

57834f5bc3618852488b4572

 

“Race doesn’t really exist for you because it has never been a barrier. Black folks don’t have that choice.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi

 

Ta-Nehisi-Coates-When-Oppressor-Preaches-Non-Violence-1024x576

1 – If you ever say #AllLivesMatter or #BlueLivesMatter, you’re most likely a racist, or you enjoy playing the disgruntled contrarian who prefers to marginalize a crucial movement instead of being more open-minded. Neither is a good look. Let’s be clear: Cops Lives have always mattered. White Lives have always mattered. Black Lives have never mattered to a high-percentage of our population. This is not difficult to understand. If your first instinct is to type #AllLivesMatter when black Americans protest against police brutality, then you are part of the problem. What happened to the cops in Dallas was tragic and senseless. People have a right to be outraged and to mourn, nobody wants to see a police officer killed. The difference I typically see on social media is that when a cop is murdered, everyone refers to him/her as a hero. Everyone. And that’s perfectly normal and understandable. Employment as a police officer has never been safer, the stats indicate as much, but a cop has to face a potential threat at every door he knocks on, every car he pulls over. Hero is fine, maybe even accurate. But when Philando Castile and other black citizens are murdered by cops, the narrative takes a barbaric turn. The victim’s past is investigated for criminal activity, gang affiliation, and any other minutia that racists can use to justify his murder. They spend hours online to find one scrap of evidence that will “prove” the victim was a villainous person and probably deserved to be shot. Neanderthal claptrap. In our lovely pale world every murdered cop is an American hero. And ever murdered black person is a worthless thug. We should all be ashamed. We need to be better humans.

2 – Not complying with a police officer should not be a death sentence. Cops are not Gods. Cops are not super-human. They have the same capacity for hate, violence. love, and pacifism as anyone else. You have a right to question the tactics of an abusive officer without fear of taking a bullet in your chest. De-escalation should emphasized more in police training. Too many funerals have taken place because too many officers chose to be trigger-happy. Men in positions of authority can be a foreboding presence, especially when they have a badge, gun, and the rabid support of white society.

3 – You can have respect for police officers while also demanding accountability for their actions. You can do both of these things, they are not mutually exclusive. It’s not about picking a side, it’s about desiring a world where black people aren’t hunted like elk in every major city. Full disclosure: A kind and compassionate police officer went out of his way to help me during a time when hopelessness owned my mind and soul. He is a wonderful human being. But that doesn’t mean I should look the other way when bigoted cops target minorities. And I realize the majority of our police force do exemplary work in our communities. Most cops are good people. But the nefarious ones need to be rooted out and admonished/prosecuted for behaviors that lead to unjust arrests and/or physical harm.

4 – Silence is violence. Silence does not ignite change. Silence is cowardice. If you say nothing about racism, if you witness it in person or on social media and remain quiet, you’re not only helping their cause, you’re also committing a disservice to those who might need your voice the most. I actually created a second Twitter account to go after some of these monsters. I went the anonymous route because I didn’t want to subject my writer friends on my main account to the venom that would inevitably invade my feed. The racists tend to attack as a horde on social media. I was shocked and saddened by how many vulgar Twitter accounts are out there. Blew me away. They have thousands and thousands of followers, and all they tweet is abhorrent, prejudiced bullshit. I have engaged them in debate numerous times the last few days. They don’t listen and I feel a bit grimy dealing with them, but it did make feel like I was doing something profound. And I need to do more. Speak up and say no to the racist rhetoric permeating every inch of our digital landscape. Silence is easy. Silence is weakness.

5 – Many people on social media claim that #BlackLivesMatter is a terrorist group. It’s hard for me to type that with a straight (handsome) face. Just stop. They want change. They want to spotlight atrocities committed against them. They want peace. The movement grew from a Facebook post, which you can read about in the New Yorker. Educate yourself.

20160712_160856

6 – A favorite trope of racists when you call them out is “I have a black friend, I’m not a racist.” Or some variation of that nonsense. What? If that’s true then why have your last 75 tweets used some of the most offensive language I’ve ever seen? Own your racism. Or be a better human.

7 – If you’re a racist, look deep within and ask yourself why. Why so angry? Why so hateful? Why do you want to be on the wrong side of history? Imagine your children reading your horrific tweets. Are you capable of objectivity? We all have issues, nobody is flawless in their thoughts or interactions with others. But most folks aim for decency and fairness in their lives. My only fundamental goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday. Sometimes I fail, but I never stop striving for any slice of enlightenment and amelioration that shoves me in that direction.

8 – Follow these bright, rational, earnest folks on Twitter: Roxane Gay, DeRay Mckesson, #KeepItMoving, Samuel Sinyangwe, and #BlackLivesMatter. Or find their articles online. Read and absorb their wisdom.

[I had to edit this post to add an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates. He nails it as he always does. Please read his The Near Certainty of Anti-Police Violence. Potent stuff.]

20160714_105202

9 – Have a vape. All racism can be remedied with a delicious custard vape. Right?

10 – Lastly, #StayWoke. Or for the racists, wake the fuck up.

I’ll Have What He’s Having

Art-Smoke-In-Black-Wallpaper-HD

I’m delighted to make a second appearance at Spelk Fiction with my story I’ll Have What He’s Having. A big thanks to Gary Duncan for giving it a lovely home. Spelk is the rare journal that publishes a wide array of stories. Gritty crime, dark thrillers, emotional gut punches, and poetic tales, they offer something for every type of reader. Check their archives out, you won’t be disappointed.

You can read my story here

A Long Box of Sexy

pexels-photo-25251

I am more than thrilled to have my story A Long Box of Sexy published by The Airgonaut. I try not to compare journals and whatnot, I’m grateful no matter who publishes me, but this one truly means a lot to me. Their content is consistently top-notch, and I’ve learned a great deal about flash fiction by reading them. I can’t say enough good about this journal. Today is a wonderful day.

You can read my story here

A Love Called Nimbostratus

54241-love-smoke

Stoked to have my story A Love Called Nimbostratus published by Five 2 One magazine. The #Sideshow includes offbeat stories and poetry, which is my cup of sugarless tea. Check them out when you have the time.

You can read my story here

While I can’t have you, I long for you. I am the kind of person who would miss a train or a plane to meet you for coffee. I’d take a taxi across town to see you for ten minutes. I’d wait outside all night if I thought you would open the door in the morning. If you call me and say ‘Will you…’ my answer is ‘Yes’, before your sentence is out. I spin worlds where we could be together. I dream you.
For me, imagination and desire are very close.

Jeanette Winterson –

SOFT IS A CONDITION


maxresdefault

We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.

-Chuck Palahniuk, Choke-

 

I’m excited to take part in the National Flash Fiction Day FlashFlood again this year with my story SOFT IS A CONDITION. Roughly 144 stories were published to celebrate the ever-growing popularity of tiny fiction, the kind of tales you can read and finish as you sip a cup of coffee.

So, have your kid accidentally slip inside a gorilla enclosure so all those perfect Facebook parents can seek bloody vengeance, put away your ridiculous assault rifle, and dive into a pool of imagination.

You can read my story here

Sunday Prose 5

color-smoke-grenade

I’ve spent more time than usual thinking about writing this week. Not my own writing, I sink into that dark, sloppy, porous ground often, but the prose of others. Or how writers can do things with plot, structure, word choice, cleverness etc… that I can’t. It would be easy to get discouraged when you read outstanding flash fiction. It would be easy to become jealous of other writers depth of skill and the success that follows. And when the depression is broiling in my mind, sometimes that negative junk fills the cranium. The lovely chant of I’m not good enough. I am a worthless hack. I write like a child. My ravishing face is an aphrodisiac to women, men, and the big cats of Africa. Oh, that last one occurs on the narcissistic days not the depressed ones. Oops.

Ultimately, knowing there are über-talented writers out in digital world is a good thing. Not only do I get the opportunity to read a story that moves me at my core, that makes me stare at walls for hours in some kind of emotional trance, but I also get to learn from them. The best way to improve your writing is to read others who do it better. It’s that simple. Peel away the arrogance that all writers wear like a mink parka, and let more accomplished writers illuminate the path with their mastery of precision, thought, imagery, and word manipulation.

This week on Sunday Prose I’ve included six stories instead of the usual three because I’m going to switch these posts to once a month instead of once a week. My laziness is a brutal dictator.

Pour some sugar on me. Or in me. My new diet is killing me softly.

Let’s do this!

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* A Lesser Cement by Anna Lea Jancewicz (FLAPPERHOUSE)
A love story involving a hammer? Yes, please.

* Timeshare by Dolan Morgan (Third Point Press)
A lesson in restraint and brevity. Beautiful in a weird, poignant way. So good.

* The Jigsaw Puzzles by Rebecca Harrison (Cease, Cows)
The descriptions in this story are vivid and fantastic. Love every word of this emotional tale.

* Them Boys by Ron Gibson, Jr. (Spelk Fiction)
I actually commented at the time this was first published. Still resonates. Get your grit on, yo.

* The Raptor and the Boy by Len Kuntz (Jellyfish Review)
Dark and disturbing story with a side of comeuppance. My kind of flash.

* On the Way to the Killing Spree the Shooter Stops for Pizza by Tom McAllister (Sundog Lit)
This is more short story than flash but I had to include it. Remains one of my favorite pieces of writing. So detailed and profound. Imagery is off the charts. Phenomenal.