Monday, June 24, 2019

Untitled (24 June 2019)

play the room like an orchestra
drive the players like pins
slot them each into square holes
and watch them as they spin

Thursday, June 20, 2019

La Bottega

"What do you make?"

I choked on the meal replacement drink I was sipping on and looked up in surprise. Maria was leading a new protege around the co-op and they'd come up behind me, squinting into a computer.

"Ah, sorry," I replied after a few coughs. "I'm not a creator."

"No, he is... what is the word? Ma-nip-u-la-tor, I think, yes?"

"Maria, you make it sound so dirty."

She laughed and batted her eyes sarcastically at me.

"No, sorry. I keep track of the money. It's not necessarily easier to do it in house, but it gives the artists a sense of reassurance that they can come over any time and see what I'm doing. I even mirror my display, and leave all the docs readable to everyone so they can see everything is aboveboard."

"Are you an accountant?"

"Actually, I'm an amateur writer. Not good enough for the likes of this place, they've got better people than me. But yes, I handle the accounting. Not the taxes, those we do have a service for, but I liaise with them."

"So you don't create art."

Maria and I laughed together. It was an old joke.

"What is art?"

The protege frowned.

Maria smiled. "Art is the creation of order from chaos, using a... medium, yes? medium that everybody can understand."

"That's what I do. You could call me an artist, but instead of manipulating colors or words, I use numbers. Order from chaos, indeed. For all the order the artists here create from the chaos of the world, some chaos still flows out. I distill it into further order."

"I... never thought of it that way." The protege turned away, frowning.

Maria scowled at me. "Hai rotto un altro." Another old joke.

I grinned back. "Le cose rotte si adattano meglio." My accent was terrible, but she knew what I meant.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Untitled (16 June 2019)

no you're wrong
i know what sf means
and what you've written
isn't it
two firefly references
don't sf make

i'm sorry i was
too subtle for you
it wasn't about firefly
and that wasn't the only reference
nothing wrong
with not getting it

i hate writing something
that i fall in love with
and i try to give
others the chance
to fall too
but they'd rather
track in mud
insist everything is wrong
that i don't know what i'm doing

it's no small wonder
i can't find someone
worthy of my heart
if i can't find someone
who finds worth
in my words

when will i learn
to limit my pride
and not try to

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Route 191 to Arches Scenic Drive

Mature Content

This passage contains content that may not be suitable for all audiences. Read at your own risk.

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We woke together. His head rested on my chest, and my heart rate and breathing escalated as I surfaced from sleep.

"Six hours to Moab."

I patted his head. "We have to talk about that."

He pouted, one hand circling my chest.

"There are no trees to hang from at Arches. It's an established campsite, nearly primitive; water pump, toilets, fire pits, and picnic tables, but nothing else. I have a portable stand, but it's not designed for two bodies. And it's in the middle of National Preserve land, so dispersed is forbidden."

"So I'm on my own."

"You're welcome on my plot, but I won't have any shelter to share."

"I understand." He was silent for several minutes. "Can I see your maps?"

"Of course." I started to shift, but he held on.

"Not yet. Later." He kissed me, and we finished waking up together.

He studied my topos of the area thoughtfully. "What would you suggest?"

"Assuming you have survival down pat.."

"Assume I do."

"There's no-where for you to camp between here and there. But here, you can hike back and forth between Frisco and Breckenridge all season. Five miles or so one-way. Your biggest problems are food, bears, and mountain lions. If you need a change of scenery, you can take Meadow Creek Trail further north, or Wheeler west and south, around the other side of Tenmile."

"How well do you know those trails?"

"Not at all. But you can probably buy topos in Frisco, and almost definitely in Brecken'."

"Will you be coming back this way after your week in Arches?"

I shrugged. "Probably."

He studied his feet. "But you won't be the same person."

"Different roads. And miles to go before I sleep."

"And miles to go before I sleep. I'll be here, if you come looking."

I drove out of Frisco with my hand resting on an empty seat.

"Six hours to Moab."

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Peaks Trail to Miner's Creek Road

Mature Content

This passage contains content that may not be suitable for all audiences. Read at your own risk.

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I woke to eyes watching me. It was still dark, but there was a glow to the sky that was enough to see by. I unclipped my water bottle from my ridgeline and rinsed the staleness out of my mouth, but before I could do more than shift my legs out of my sleeping bag and sit up a little, the zipper on my bugnet was pulled open. He climbed in and joined me, the warmth from his body curling around my legs and staving off any shivers. I reached around him and drew the net closed again, and in the same motion, kissed him.

He melted into me.

When we came up for air, there was a soft smile on his face, and I felt one on mine as well. It was rare contentment and a haze of happiness.

"How far is Moab?"

"Six hours."

"Six hours to Moab?" He tasted the time with his tongue. "What's the rush?"

"There isn't any."

"Camping there too?"

"Yeah. I have a reservation for a week starting tomorrow night."

"Tomorrow night?"

"Yeah. I gave myself an extra day to get there. But it will be loud and crowded. Not much privacy."

"What are you going to do with the extra day?"

I stroked his face. "I was thinking about staying right here."

He kissed me again, and we let our hands wander.

The sun peeked over Swan Mountain in the late morning, and we ignored the glowing sky until my stomach grumbled. He scowled at me.

"If you're eating more of that slop, I'm going back to my hammock."

I smiled and fished a snack bar out of one of my pockets, waving it under his face.

He slapped it out of my hand, and it tumbled out of the hammock and down into the slack in my bugnet. "You've had that this whole time?"

"Supposed to be for emergencies only. I have a lot of the powder. I only have so many bars."

"Do you need me to fish that one out again, or do you have another one in your pocket?"


"What about your stomach?"

"If we're just going to stay here and lounge around all day, it will quiet down eventually."

His fingers dug into my sides and left me shaking, gasping. "You should probably keep your energy up."

"Don't do that again. I hate being tickled."

"Do you really? Or do you hate the side effects?"

I grumbled.

"That's what I thought." He leaned over the hammock and fished out my snack bar, then handed it to me. "Eat up."

I ate slowly because I stayed full longer. Eventually, though, the bar was gone, the wrapping was tucked away where it wouldn't become litter, and we descended from our hammocks and climbed further up the road.

The path southward was more worn, but we chose it anyway; northward would only lead us back to Frisco after a mere half mile of forest. South would go all the way to Breckenridge if we had the mind; I certainly didn't, my mind was on Arches.

We were alone, but we weren't. We received smiles and nods and the tipping of hats from people who passed us, either travelling faster than our lazy gait or going the other way, but they passed around a turn and were gone in a few minutes, and didn't try to make conversation or match our pace.

These were the strangers that I loved. If I were injured or struggling, they would stop. If I paused one to ask if they could call back home when they got to the bottom to say that I'm alright, they would take the number and pass on the message. We were all in this together, in the peace and the wild, without malice.

Arches was fairly commercialized, though not as badly as the Grand Canyon or, even worse, Four Corners. I would be surrounded by kids and parents who took deliberate steps to avoid the wild, either in their RVs at base camp, or their hotel back in Moab. Few would be tent-laden, and I would probably be the only hammock, especially given there was no-where to hang at basecamp. My compact stand was disassembled in the back of the car.

They were very live and let live too. If I... no, I'm not going to just think about it.

I bit my lip and glanced at him slyly, then started drifting off to the side of the trail. He followed, curious and eager, hand in mine. I pushed him against the nearest tree and kissed him, hard. I could hear the smiles and footsteps of passing hikers, but nobody catcalled or objected. I lifted his hands to my shoulders and unzipped his pants.

I just teased him, holding to a dangerous edge, but went no further. After a few minutes, I pulled away, and he scowled. I returned to the trail and continued walking, instead of waiting for him to straighten his clothing. If I had, I don't doubt he would have dragged me deeper off the trail and finished what I started; I would have done the same.

He had to jog a bit to catch up. "You are evil."

I grinned, and we kept walking. 

The problem with walking a long straight path is there comes a point were you have to turn around. That moment found us seated on the ground off to one side of the path, a few trees and a little undergrowth away. I was steeping pine needles into tea, my miniature camping stove chugging away on a small patch of recently cleared dirt.

He watched me, dubious. For all his time on the road, this was a first.

"It tastes better with dried marigold, but I don't have any."

"I'll take your word for it."

I let the fire burn out while it finished steeping, and sieved out most of the needles. I picked up my pot gingerly, but the sidewalls were still cool to the touch, and sipped carefully. My eyes widened, and I passed him the pot.

"Don't touch the plate on the bottom. That's still hot. But it's not as fragile as it looks."

He took a careful sip, and then a larger one. "That's not the flavor I was expecting."

I smiled, and he passed it back. We traded swallows until it was gone, and then I cleaned out the pot and folded it back into my pack. Before I could stand, he hauled me back down to the ground and repeated to me what I did earlier.

I growled as he pulled away, grabbed onto his arms, and pinned one of his legs under mine, before bucking and rolling. I finished unfastening my pants, set my knees on his shoulders, and made him finish what he started.

We walked back slowly. He kept glancing at me furtively, on guard against further teasing. 

I fixed a batch of powder for dinner, drinking it while leaning against the car, and brushed my teeth before retiring back to the hammocks. 

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Friday, June 7, 2019

Route 9 to Miner's Creek Road

Mature Content

This passage contains content that may not be suitable for all audiences. Read at your own risk.

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He was still there when I woke up, though I couldn't remember why my dreams thought that was important. The sky was just starting to grow light and he was still asleep. I watched him for a long moment before starting to break down my gear to just the hammock, and packed it away.

He woke slowly as the sun poked through the leaves and warmed up his face. By then, the sunrise was over and I sat crossways in my hammock with some powdered breakfast watching him.

His right leg draped over the taut side-wall and he hoisted himself up by the ridgeline, hair mussed and eyes still half-closed. He climbed out the side away from me with a motion born from much habit and repetition, stretching along the way; hips first, then knees, ankles, shoulders, neck, and arms.

I watched with more than just an observant eye.

He walked around the trees that he was tethered to, unhooking and loosening the lines along the way, and approached me from behind. He stood over my head for the same long moment, taking in the sight of me laying beneath him, before leaning over and kissing me, upside down. He made a face, my breath tainted heavily with powdered whatever, but I grabbed his head and pulled him back again, pulled the kiss deeper, and his eyes widened.

I let go, and he walked over to the car, hatchback still open from my packing and concern over waking him.

"Where is it?"

"Where is what?"

"Your toiletry bag. That stuff is vile."

"Left side of the box."

He pulled out a flat black bag and returned it to me, smirking and waiting.

I scowled, but pulled out my toothbrush and toothpaste, dampened down by water from my bottle, and cleaned myself up, spitting into a small garbage bag, and returning the supplies to their pockets. Accepting the effort, he crawled into the hammock next to me and let me kiss him again. I held him tenderly, and he enjoyed the wandering of my hands.

When he pulled away to catch his breath, he rolled to one side, resting his head on my shoulder, one arm on my chest and one leg betwixt mine.

"What's next?"

"Frisco. Eight hours."

"Another campground?"

"No. Dispersed." I couldn't keep the smiled off my face with that word.

"How far do we have to hike?"

"We can camp right off the road if it's not busy."

"What's the rule?"

"Hundred feet from the creek; quarter mile from the entrance."

I'd done the math before I left, and had a decent topo in the car. This was a planned stop, unlike Calamus. At fifteen hundred feet from the entrance, the creek was five hundred feet from the road, and stayed more than a hundred feet for about a quarter mile. There would be plenty of room and privacy for us to squeeze in with anybody else in the area, on either side of the road.

We laid together for a little longer before I started growing antsy.

"What is it?"

"I hate Nebraska. Let's go."

"Eight hours to Frisco."

"Damn straight."

After four hours of silence and hand-holding, I pulled aside at the Last Days of the Buffalo rest area. I found an empty stretch of lawn and laid down on the grass, letting the kinks ease themselves out of my body through the warmth of the sun. A toe nudged me after a few minutes, and I rolled over in reply.

He knelt next to me and massaged my shoulders, back, and legs. I let my eyes close and mind drift. When he was done, I rolled onto my side and smiled at him.

"Thank you."

"My pleasure, though you might want to lay there a little longer while your gratitude fades down."

I laughed, and he got up and grabbed some food. When I was ready to sit up, there was a bottle of my slosh waiting for me, and I chugged it down, cleaned it out, and returned to the car.

It was a bright and clear day, so I pulled off to the side of the road a scant two hours later, just west of Fort Morgan. I didn't get out of the car, just sat gazing westward, a warm hand on my thigh. I could see mountains, and as ever, they took my breath away. I put my hand on his for a short minute, and then pulled back into traffic.

We stopped for gas in Denver before beginning the climb on 70. It was early in the afternoon and there were few cars on the road; that came as very reassuring as my car didn't handle steepness well and we were really getting into the climb. I knew cars would stack up behind me where there wasn't room to pass, and I'd lose some time pulling over where the route widened out to let traffic get around me again, but we were among the mountains. That alone made me happy.

It was closer to three hours than two before we rolled through Frisco. Though the light was already fading, we stopped for gas before heading for camp, topping off the tank to bar any unforeseen issues. While we were there, I made sure the maps on my phone were up to date and plugged in the coordinates for the quarter mile marker.

Thirty-nine and a half north, one-oh-six and a bit west.

The trees were dense enough that we set up side-by-side. If we started swinging in tandem, we'd bump into each other. I lent him my spare bugnet, and we laid out the rainfly over us both. The woods were dark and deep, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves, though there was a tent a hundred feet or so up the road, and judging by the traffic, more still further on.

He was close enough to touch, separated by only a foot and two layers of mesh, and that felt like too much to bridge. It took me longer than usual to fall asleep.

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39°33'54.5"N 106°04'58.8"W / 39.565151, -106.082996

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Route 20 to Calamus

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I was driving west on Iowa State Route 18 for no particular reason other than a figment of a memory from a story I read once. It was out of my way for my planned camping trip, but the fragment of inspiration was enough incentive to drive me several hours out of my way.

It was occasional light rolling hills and otherwise long, flat, wide open spaces tamed to serve as farmland as far as the eye could see, rolling past the miles in a meditative state just conscious enough to keep the car on the road. I was a few miles out of Ventura where I'd stopped to stretch my legs when I saw him.

I'm not usually one for hitchhikers, and if you've ever seen my car, you'd understand why. I'm not sure why I stopped.

He was whiplash thin and dark from the sun, with a small pack slung about his shoulders and a heavy water bottle bearing down his pants, belt cinched tight around his hips. When I pulled next to him, I saw he was clean-shaven and shorter than I expected, a few inches over five, but his eyes were unmistakably aged. He'd seen some things.

He glanced suspiciously at me through the empty pane of my rolled-down windows.

"Need a lift?"

"That depends who's asking."

"Come on mate, you know this is no getaway car. How often do you see one of these out here?"

"Fair enough. Where you headed?"


"So what are you doing on 18? Are you lost?"

"Only intentionally. Looking for a little freedom."

"You know it's not real."

"I know. Doesn't mean it's not worth looking for."

"Amen to that. Sure, I could rest my legs."

He unclipped the water bottle and swung his bag around between his legs as he folded himself into my car. He smelled of sweat and eucalyptus and witch hazel, and I pulled off the shoulder as he mopped his brow.

We sat in near silence, just the wind buffering my car, the sixty and change miles to Emmetsburg, which seemed like a relief to him, though I surreptitiously made sure one of my backup knives was still in my door pocket, just in case.

I stopped for lunch in Emmetsburg, and he was right. Freedom wasn't there, but I could see in the roads and buildings, in the way people walked it once was. Lunch was a bottle of water and a scoop of brown powder, shaken, not stirred, and a practiced effort to not breathe too much while I downed it.

"That looks disgusting."

I tilted the bottle away from my face. "It is, but it keeps me going. Want a sip?"

He coughed into his hand. "No. Thanks."

I shrugged. When it was gone, I pulled out my map, paper, for there was too much space and not enough signal for my phone to be much use. "Six hours and a bit to Calamus." I sat back in the car after rinsing out the bottle; it got more disgusting the longer it sat, so I only mixed up as much as I was going to drink in a sitting. I looked at him.

He stretched his legs one last time and climbed back into the car. "Six hours to Calamus."

Leaving Sioux City wasn't a relief, it was foreboding. The plains of Nebraska were about as dull as the landscape got, even worse than western Iowa. I shuddered as we passed out of the city limits and into the blankest slate.

"What's wrong?"

"I hate Nebraska."

"Then why Calamus?"

"Cheaper to camp than to get a room, and Nebraska is pretty inevitable."

"South Dakota is worse."

"My lunch was worse. Doesn't mean I have much of a choice."

He was silent for a few miles. "Talk to me, help the time pass faster. Where are you from?"

"Behind me."

He chuckled. "Okay, fair enough. I know a line when I see one. Here's a better question, then, one you don't have to expose too much of yourself to your hitch. Why did you stop?"

I shrugged. "Curiosity."

"No, curiosity is why you slowed down."

"You reminded me of someone."

"Of yourself, you mean."

"Yeah. If I'd taken a different road."

He laid back his head and smiled, closing his eyes. "I like this car. The first time I saw one it was when it was featured in Wired mag in the early naughties. I never wanted to own one, but I thought it looked..."

"Like freedom?"

"Just like that. Take my love, take my land..."

"Take me where I cannot stand."

He opened his left eye enough to peek at me, and settled his left arm on mine, his fingers drawing swirls on the back of my right hand. "Yeah, I can see that. Different roads. I like you. What's at Calamus?"

"State Rec Area and campgrounds."

"How open are the campsites?"

"I have no idea. Never been there before. From the satellite imagery, I think it's pretty open. Not a lot of privacy if that's what you're asking about. Also depends on how many people are there."

"Hmm." He closed his eyes again.

I turned my hand over and let his fingers fall between mine. "Four hours to Calamus."

He held my hand, squeezing it and smiling. "Four hours to Calamus."

I don't know if he fell asleep then, but I focused on the road and the feeling of his hand in mine.

He squeezed my hand as the car slowed, and then let go suddenly, as I pulled up to the office, tires crunching on gravel. I was in and out in five minutes; we had the place to ourselves. I set my hand on his leg experimentally, and drove around to a distant site in the dimming light, recommended by the proprietor. It had three trees on the lot, the only plot with as many.

I pulled up next to the picnic table and turned off the car. Taking my hand back, I rubbed my eyes, suddenly tired.

"Are you okay?"

"I hate Nebraska."

"What can I do?"

"What do you mean?"

"Do you have a tent?"

"No, no tent."

"Are you going to sleep in the car?"

I sighed. "Just give me a moment."

"Don't take too long. It's getting dark." He climbed out of the car.

When I followed a few minutes later, I couldn't help but laugh aloud.

He sat up in his hammock sharply, looking concerned. "What?"

"Different roads, man." I opened the trunk and pulled out my own. "Take me out, to the black..."

We finished the rest of the song together while I set up my hammock. I had a little more shelter than he did, and he clambered down to help me set up my rainfly over the bug net. When it was centered and hung, he leaned underneath it and stroked my face. I leaned closer and kissed him experimentally.

He kissed back for a moment, before pulling away. "Get some sleep. It's been a long day. Eight hours to Frisco."

"Eight hours to Frisco," I whispered back, and I fell asleep before I realized he had said it first.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Upgrade, a conversation

R has logged on.

R: What did you do?

D: What are you talking about?

R: My house was just broken into.

D: What? What are you doing chatting with me? Get the cops involved.

R: They already are. But nothing was stolen.

D: Are you sure?

R: Positive. 

D: So you scared whomever it was off before they could grab anything.

R: No, they were gone before we got back.

D: So something else spooked them. What's your worry? Besides now knowing your house is a target. Or was. Probably will be extra patrols past your house for the next few weeks, so it's actually less of a target.

R: But there's something wrong with my computer.

D: What are you talking about?

R: It sounds different, when it's running. And I'm not having internet problems anymore.

D: Let me get this straight...

R: Yes, I think someone broke into my house and upgraded my computer.


R: It's not funny!

D: Yes it is!

D: Did you get a different case?

D: Maybe it just got tuned.

D: I don't know.

D: Why would someone do that?

R: Last month you asked me what my computer case looked like.

R: Why did you want to know?

D: What?

R: I'm really freaking out right now.

D: I. Didn't. Do. Anything.

D: You've known me for how long? Years. Probably so long you don't even remember how long we've known each other. Hard to remember how we met too.

R: Something to do with devart.

D: Okay, that's not very specific, but anyway.

D: I've helped you manage your website and your domain name. You've given me access to your accounts, you clearly trust me.

R: Temporary access. And changed the password afterward.

D: Yeah, I know, but you still gave me access for a short time in the first place. How many people do you let access any of your accounts for a few minutes, even when you're looking over their shoulder?

R: None

D: So you trust me.

R: Yes.

D: So when I tell you I didn't mess with your computer...

R: I believe you.

R: It's just weird.

D: So what happened to your computer?

R: The internet isn't giving me problems any more. The case looks cleaner.

D: Your internet is fixed and your case is cleaner. That's it?

R: That's all I can see.

R: Okay, for all the advice about computers you've given me, tell me this: how can I check to see if the guts are different, without opening it up?

D: Hmm...

D: Okay, yeah, I can work with that. Really easy too.

R: What?

D: Load up Minecraft.

R: What?

D: You've had problems running it in the past, problems you associated with your computer hardware not being able to keep up. If you run it now, and it doesn't have problems, you got an upgrade.

D: Kinda wish someone would break into my place and upgrade mine. I still haven't fixed the motherboard.

R: What's wrong with your motherboard?

D: Connection issues with the USB ports caused by tripping over my mouse cord and yanking on it.

D: You know that sound when you plug or unplug a device from your computer?

D: I get that from moving my mouse around.

R: It's running.

D: Your mouse?

R: No, Minecraft.

D: Are you on a server or local save?

R: Local save. J's server seems to be down.

D: Yeah, it's been like that for a while. I check in every few weeks.

D: Try a server.

R: I don't have any other servers.

D: Okay, hold on... [link]

D: Sign up through that link, give it your account info, it'll whitelist you.

R: What is that?

D: Creative build server for one of the youtubers I follow. 

D: Should give you easy instructions to get on.

D: I'll get mine started.

R: I'm in.

D: What?

R: I'm in.

D: Okay, now I'm seriously jealous. I can't connect that quickly.

R: Wow, now I really believe you.

R: I have to go.

D: What, you didn't before?

D: ok

R: ttyl

D: ttfn

R has logged off.