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Ho Ho Ho

The silence and wonderment that the first snow creates made the early morning crime all the more unsettling. Sticking out from behind the dumpster like a holiday version of the Wicked Witch of the West, were two boot clad feet, followed by the tell tale fake fur and red velvet of a Santa. The flakes of snow danced across the dirty face of the deceased. Fake beard askew against his chin, his cloudy eyes stared over my shoulder into the eyes of a now missing assailant. The deep morning snow erasing any memory from the landscape that anyone but our corpse had ever been here. His right hand permanently clenched in a fist, I smiled thinking that at least this one had gotten in a good punch or two.

"Check the fist for blood evidence, " I muttered to the crime scene investigator, already hunched over the body.

"On it - - Cause of death was blunt force object to the face, from the looks of it, I'd say a New American Edition. Leather exterior. Looks like they really took the word of God to his face!", he replied grimly.

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Wormwood and Rue

cross field

She runs away into the woods, wormwood and rue cascading around her feet in the autumn woods. The smell of the end of summer, the decay of leaves sticking to her like judgement. Does she notice accidentally falling in the water, simply neglecting to save herself from sinking? Her garments pull her down, as if they had a mind of their own. It is simply the way she'd lead her life: doing what her father and brother — and boyfriend— tell her to do, rather than making decisions for herself. She'd been seen with him was proof enough. Imaginations of authority created all the crime there was to see, obvious to everyone where the blame truly lay. It is only when she realizes that she's seeing the lilies from below, watching her dress float around her like a mermaid's gown, that the warmest smile spreads across her face and Ophelia takes her last breath.

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a proud people

ginger

Ginger Men are a proud people. We are bread in deep, surprisingly peppery, cultural origins. It is in our prime ingredients to know that our time here is measured in hours instead of days. Baking at 400F for ten minutes, we all have the chance to dream of that moment when we are set on a plate next to a hot cocoa. We lead simple, tenderly baked lives, always knowing that we immediately start going stale from the moment we are set out in the world. Don't feel pity for Ginger Men - know that we accept our place in the circle of life with a glad heart. I hope now that you know our cultural history better, you'll consider saving us whenever you see us this holiday season. Today I am set out on a plate with five of my spongey brethren. We await our fate. We are all smiles.

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Dear John,

deaer john
DEAR JOHN, "These letters have gotten a LOT more complicated than they used to be.", she thought to herself, letting the Johnny Walker work it's magic on her tongue. -“It’s not you - it’s me”- nope - it is all about him
-"I want different things now"- like a solid witness protection program -"I've grown and well...."- you haven't. -“this isn’t the relationship I wanted.”- duh. too simple. -"i really need some space"- several thousand miles of it. buh bye, no. -"who in the hell taught you to kiss?"- wow harsh. but it was more like experiencing slimy mouth-to-mouth resuscitation than kissing. really. gross. wierd. where does someone learn tha... -"i just can't see myself married to you."- leave alone in the same room. -"i'll leave the ring at your mothers"- because we both know that's where you'll run crying like a little bitch -"at least I'll save money on all the drinking, I've been doing"- she laughed out loud at that one and took another glorious sip of her triple manhattan.
 
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Rendered Invisible

charlie

I was in an angry, hurried rush. Who calls a 7am meeting on a Monday morning anyway? I was madly sipping a coffee, and rushing to meet the train in the park. That was the first time I saw him - a 15th century friar sitting in the park watching the dogs play. He seemed like a very robinhoodesque character to be sitting amongst playing dogs and their owners busy instagramming only the cutest pictures before getting on with their day. The doors pulled mechanically shut on my train and I stared back at him sitting so blissfully in the park. What was a friar doing sitting in the dog park on a Monday morning at 7am? Shouldn't he be off praying somewhere? I found myself thinking way too much about it. "Just sitting in the park?" asked my friend at work. "Yeah - it was odd. no coffee. no backpack. like there is a monastery somewhere in Green Heights. It was totally like Friar Tuck on a movie set and he was taking a smoke break." I said laughing. "Turns out there is!", she said, showing me her phone. "The Franciscan Friars of The Renewal", I read outloud. "Right there near the park. How have I lived there for a decade and not known of a friary right down the block? That is crazy!" "Well lets see - you are a white, militantly agnostic fag living in San Diego. You are, despite your love of penis, high on the power pyramid, you make good money - so you never need a soup kitchen or a clothing pantry. I'd guess his kind is relatively invisible to you." I don't think she meant it in a hurtful way - but her concept of invisibility stuck with me hard. Particularly in this age of divisiveness, it was easy to surround yourself with everything that agrees with you and ignore that which does not. Now - it's not that God and me have a beef going on necessarily - I just don't see the whole thing as something to center my life around. If there is a God, I just don't think about it the way Christianity chooses to. As a gay man I had certainly seen my share of religion being used as a weapon. One needs only look at the millions the Catholic Church and the Mormons teamed up to spend on Proposition 8. Understandably, most men like me have a dim view of organized faith of any sort. I looked out for him each morning walking through the park in the mornings - and even circled back through the park on my way home. But no luck. So, I made a plan. I got up the next Monday, just the time I'd seen him in the park the week before. I put coffee in a pair of to go cups and headed to the park. Sure enough, like a ghost, there he was at his same location. I hovered opposite him in the park for a moment, embarrassed at the loss of my normal extroverted nature. "Good morning," I said tentatively, walking up to the bench. Like I'd said magic words, his face lit up into a beautiful wide, warm smile. His head was meticulously shaved - making his fluff of a brown beard all the more pronounced. What had looked like simple robes from a distance were full of layers and detail. "Do you mind if I join you, Father?" "Oh.. no - of course," he said scooting over on the bench, "I'm a Friar. Friar William." I explained how I'd noticed him the previous Monday, and found out about the Friars in the house in the neighborhood. "I am usually out seeing people but on my way home I always stop here. I usually take jam sandwiches up to the homeless that rest up in the rail yards. But the dogs are God's creatures as well, so it does my heart good to stop and watch. A dog wouldn't work out well in fraternal life, particularly if I am the only one that wishes for a dog. So this is my time to enjoy their energy." "I brought you a coffee. Do you like coffee?" "I am called to poverty, chastity, and obedience. , but I can still enjoy a cup of coffee, yes." he said with a warm smile, taking the cup from me. "Do you have a dog?" "I used to - and to be honest, since he died I haven't spent a whole lot of time watching the dogs here." "Isn't it interesting how we render things that used to be so central to our life, invisible when they no longer hold that special place?", he said, unintentionally mirroring the conversation with my coworker. It rendered me silent for a moment. Was I that blind to the world around me? "I had never noticed you before, how long have you been in the neighborhood? How many of you are there?" "We've been here a few years. We originally began in the Bronx. We are just eight of us - and we spend a lot of time out amongst the poor on the street, we open a soup kitchen once a week and have a pantry of donated clothes. What we do is very simple as we rely on mostly donations for our own livelihood as well as what we can provide the vulnerable." "I am little embarrassed to realize that I'd never noticed ya'll here in the neighborhood. A coworker suggested since I don't look to charities for food or shelter, that it had rendered ya'll invisible. Maybe I'm just not a very observant person." "I'd like to think that finding the fraternity and serving as we do, makes sure that others that might be less visible become our shining and clear focus," he said with a chuckle, "The homeless here are an interesting lot, they still live in this beautiful city. but they struggle with addictions and battles that many of us will never know or understand. I learn so much from them. I had a homeless man explain to me plainly one day that being invisible was an important skill. It makes people more comfortable about the homeless. We are only eight men, but we do what we can. So don't be too hard on yourself - it is part of how the world works. It doesn't make it "good" or "bad" whether you can see the homeless or a friar on a bench - or even simpler, see the dogs in the park on the way home. Human nature lets us all use invisibility in our own way."

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origami

origami
He came to a rest under an enormous California oak. The arms of the tree disappearing above him into the last hints of daylight. The pack peeled off his back with a thud. The weight coming off allowed the deepest emotional sigh escape with his breath.
 
He drank deeply from his thermos, water sloshing off his chin. Wiping his chin with his arm and shirt sleeve, he let out a mischevious, misplaced giggle. He pulled out the package wrapped in foil. the only correct way to eat corn on the cob was like a typewriter - left to right, then rotate and left to right. Dinner roll. Mushy squash. Can't be a chooser.
 
Gently rummaging into his burden, he pulled out a single small packet from the overstuffed pocket. 'Fragrance-free' said the label proudly. He carefully unfolded it, a reverent origami in reverse. Humming an unimportant melody, he smiled, holding the rectangle up into the light of the streetlamp.
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Bitter Bottoms of Baltimore

reality show

"Even food shows are angry these days, with women throwing stuff and calling each other bitches... it's awful... and then they cut to an interview in the 'truth-booth' where she says 'I'm doing this for my kids'. Does she realize that her potty mouth and horribleness will soon be out on high definition blue ray for her kids and grandkids to enjoy forever? , a classic childhood moment." "yet, you continue to watch it each week........"

"I know.... does it help if I feel dirty?" "Could you imagine us on a reality show?" "OMG! It would be a ratings bonanza! Move over Real Housewives of Hoboken, it's The Bitter Bottoms of Baltimore!" "For the record, I'd call you a filthy bitch out in the open, I wouldn't wait for the truth booth." "How would people get eliminated?" "One day your hot, and the next, you're not. ah wedersehen. We could find some Swedish furry bodybuilder whose limited English language skills are that sentence." "We would still be friends after I win, right?" "Someone's gotta keep you from blowing the prize money on cute shoes." "Wha?" "Imelda, please...."
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A Toast

tux

The wedding dinner settled down as he tapped his glass with his fork.  He took a card out of his suit jacket. He'd practiced, and learned the best words for this moment. He took a big sip of water, took a glance at the newlyweds, and leaned forward to speak into the microphone. "When I was a kid I didn't have much. I just grew up in one of those families where the only things you looked forward to inheriting was sorrow - the future I saw in front of me was workin' at a shit town Pick and Save in a wrinkled red schmock dreaming of the day I'll get promoted to Assistant Manager. Sorry for the language, I'm not a very good public speaker. Randall and I met our junior year at Haber High playin' football. Ya'll know his story - the glory, the Heisman. but what I got when I met Randall was someone who believed that everyone," He paused, embarrassed at being emotional, "Believed everyone was capable of glory. He said to me once - early on - and I'm paraphrasin' a bit - bare with me, 'It’s easy to count your problems. but lets make a deal, goin' forward, every time you mention a problem, also mention a blessing in your life. Try to see if that will add light to your troubles and hopefully make them less of a hassle. Think of it as a sorta contagious optimism.” Many of ya'll don't know this - but Randall stayed up with me late nights to study - so I could score that extra percent to make me eligible to go to State. It was Randall who said to coach, the only one I want protecting me on the field is #22. I'm not a smart man - but I'm a good man because of my friendship with Randall - and now - his new bride Kara. I am so unworthy of standing back there in that church in the best man spot." he said with a second pause, "Such a special thing for him to ask me to do. Leave it to Randall to fall in love with the only member of the State student body who had never been to a football game. I'll tell you as soon as they met though - that it was something miraculous. There was such an ease between them. I mean - I watch the two of them and I know the incredible parents they are going to - the world their children will grow up in.. but heck, that's all getting ahead of ourselves a bit, huh. Let's all raise our glasses then." He finally said, turning to face the newlyweds, a big wide smile spreading across his face, "Mr. and Mrs, friends and family, teammates - - lets raise our glasses in a grateful toast to contagious optimism."

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no.

ring

A few dvds, a pair of earphones, and some neatly folded tshirts and underwear sat there. Every night when I came home the small box of stuff taunted me, reminding me of all of it. He had changed his Facebook profile to read "engaged to" - so absolutely sure he knew all the answers. He'd posted photos for all our friends to see of the engagement ring.

You always read about fairytale proposals. You daydream of how you might answer when that special moment comes. You imagine yourself at city hall in matching suits. "What do you mean, what? Seriously? I don't understand?," he said, instantly seething and visibly outraged, "Did the community fight for marriage equality for no reason? We can GET married!" I figured saying "no, thats not what I want." was enough. We sat in a punishing silence before he simply got up and left my flat.
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Time Capsule

ocean

I hardly recognized the young boy in photo, walking in the surf, letting the late summer waves frolic with his hands. That beach. It had felt like the very definition of liberation when I visited. I remember trembling with excitement when I stood at the rail, my first trip on a Fire Island Ferry. All that thick black hair waved, shined in the sun calling to men like a siren from Greek mythology. The twinkle in my eye lead to humid late summer days of cruising, relentless sex, strong cocktails, sin and scandal.

Of course, just a few years later, it came - and that changed everything. By 1988, there had been 61,816 deaths in the U.S. alone. I was twenty-five. Two years later, nearly twice as many Americans had died of AIDS as died in the Vietnam War. By the time I was thirty? 234,225 deaths. Forty? Nearly 600,000 deaths. Twice the population of Minneapolis, three times the population of Madison, six times the population of Salt Lake City or Boise, dead. It's weird to say it - to have measured my entire life by death. You can't really blame me, though. I grew into adulthood convinced I would never see old age - and nothing around me convinced me it would ever be otherwise. It was an Arthurian legend - an embedded sword my kind was destined to never pull from the rock. Yet, here we are. How the hell did I live through all that shit to get to fifty? Sheer dumb luck, that's how. I listen to my heterosexual peers begin to bemoan and worry about their final walk with death. I feel sorry for them actually, that they have waited their entire lifetimes to become comfortable with death. I actually smile thinking about it. It is not new to me. It doesn't scare me - I've known it my entire time here. It has been a comfortable companion reminding me to live every second because the wolf is never really that far away. When I do finally meet her, I will slap her across the face as hard as my elderly hand is capable, then gladly disappear into the ether like everyone else before me.
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