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Pavement

The pavement cracks beneath me. Always so hard, immovable. For it to break… That has to symbolize something, right?

Wish I knew what.

Each breath burns my lungs, caustic atmosphere stinging worn musculature, urging it back to action. I can smell the lactic acid through my pores, on my sweat, in the blood that runs in jagged lines down my arms, drips from the tips of my fingers and bursts within the concrete’s newly-formed cracks.

So prominent is this, so powerful this sensation, that my feet seem numb, legs leaden, nothing but dead weight hanging from creaking joints and a heaving torso. Just the smell, just the taste and the sting.

Just the crack of two knuckles against my ribs, splitting them and crushing the organs behind, expelling air past my teeth. Bile coats my lips, sour and bitter on my tongue. I cough–involuntary–and bring a hand to my chest, wince at the fresh surge of pain.

I see it all: the foot arcing in, the heel snapping down from above, the air distorted around my chin as the two parts collide at odds, dull clatter of bones splintered in my jaw and teeth ripped free of my gums. There’s copper filling my mouth, even as I see it dribble from between lips barely parted, bright red and mixed with clear spit. Something strikes my chest from within, jerks cracked ribs into searing motion, beats again and nearly goes silent, provoking a scrambling fear in a rapidly dimming mind.

The cracks in the pavement widen under my bulk.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Writing

 

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Shmura

“What the fuck were you thinking?”

The shmura matzah lies, edge broken, on the table. It’s still in its plastic bag, wrapped in Israel and sealed all the way to us. I release it, fingers tentatively dangling above it, deciding whether to continue trying to return it to its box.

“The package says ‘to Mr. Ronald Reiches.’ That’s my name, not yours.”

He’d opened it mere moments before, spacious yellow envelope with this simple, square box within. I’d removed the matzah from the box, to show him what shmura is. Thirty seconds ago, he’d had no concept of hand-pressed matzah, individually baked. A minute ago, he hadn’t even known we’d had matzah in the house.

I pick up the box once more, carefully return the matzah to the package and seal it back up, holding my tongue.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Writing

 

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Pariah (ii)

They sit on the edge of a small patio, attached to the body of the dojo and facing the waterfall, the forest above it. The town’s wall, tall stalks of bamboo that has yellowed with age, terminates at the woods’ edge. Kiori dangles his legs in the air, kicks them back and forth with the impatient energy of all children. He looks up at the waterfall, over to the trees and down the road in turn, his attention never remaining in one place for long. His father simply stares straight ahead, feet planted, but knee twitching uneasily.

“You’ve fallen behind in your training, again.”

Kiori’s legs stop moving, then begin again with increased speed and intensity, but his eyes are focused straight down at the stone walkway. They remain there, as though stuck, while his father takes the rare opportunity—his youngest son, listening!—to continue speaking.

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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Writing

 

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Pariah (i)

“Kiori!”

The voice echoes against bamboo walls, audible over the roar of the waterfall that ends just inside their border, at the edge of a thriving forest. Tall stalks of bright green encircle Eiji as he enters deeper into the closest copse, mid-day sun dimmed to stray slivers by the tight canopy. He walks briskly, with purpose, each footfall sure and certain, but almost silent, never heavy. Eiji’s broad shoulders slump, feet stop in place, not for fear of being lost, but of an emotional weariness he can’t shake. He takes one last step forward, branch almost catching on his loose ponytail as he slips under it, and stands erect, scanning the forest with jade eyes.

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Posted by on March 7, 2011 in Writing

 

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Gehenna (finale)

The dreams break under the harsh brilliance of the morning sun, but its ire is somewhat deadened, filtered through a palpable aura of contentment that dulls the obvious and blunts the true. Such is the power of human folly, the strength in oblivious disregard for the facts.

Her hand spreads against his chest, fingers running through coiled hair. He breathes deep, smells the tonic in her hair, the oils of her skin weakened by the passage of time, but still remaining in a faint wisp of their former glory. Oil… To anoint royalty, yes? He stifles a laugh, but she feels him shake anyway, raises her head and looks into his softened eyes with hers, likewise healed.

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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Writing

 

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Gehenna (vii)

He makes his own fire, this night. He doesn’t try to understand why Henya’s father indulges such a whim, cutting deeper into their limited supply of flammable materials, just takes his portion of food and slinks off, hides behind the mules, out of sight and, he hopes, out of mind. Alone with his thoughts, alone with the taste of the tough, sinewy beef, overpowering brine, a small canteen of lukewarm drinking water. There is a single flat, dry cracker; utterly flavorless and wholly unpalatable without the water to wash it down, but it fills in his stomach what the meat alone cannot.

Each item in sequence. Meat, cracker, sip of water. Repeat. The mules bray gently, nervously. A brief wind picks up, but dies down just as suddenly, its appearance pulling at the flames, urging them to dance. The shadows warp and bend on the ground, Uza’s own circling around from behind him, curling back like the hand on a clock before splitting in three directions and returning to a single spire once again as the fire settles down.

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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Writing

 

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Gehenna (vi)

“How many of you were there?”

The question breaks the silence they had kept all morning, a pall almost self-imposed by Henya, though Uza had not objected. He answers in a flat tone, ambiguous; indecipherable.

“Six.”

She pauses in speech, the sound of her regular footsteps and the thin scratch of her clothes as they shift against her flesh filling Uza’s ears. He keeps his pace, but grows tense with anticipation that he can barely check. The reason for his enthusiasm escapes him, though there’s a growing sense of something building within; a warmth entirely unlike the heat of the sun that bears down on his skin, flooding him from within.

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Posted by on March 4, 2011 in Writing

 

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