My Floozy Muse

My desk lamp was flickering, and the laptop screen had a crack in it, but I was determined to finish this thing, once and for all.

The honeyed whiskey glowed invitingly in the bottle I opened, not bothering with a glass.

I could hear the rain on the window, and the slushy sound of tires on the shiny black road spattered with neon down below.  Two cats fought in an alley, and people were out who’d otherwise go stir crazy indoors.

I had nothing but whiskey and nothing else but this novel, and nobody until she appeared. Smooth, slender hands slipped over my shoulders and chest, and a tongue tip flicked my earlobe.

“Maxine.” I grinned like an psychiatric inmate. “Long time no kiss.”

She laughed, soft and low, like a piano in the dark after midnight. “Against the rules, handsome, you know that.”

“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

She poured herself a drink, and sat down, crossing legs from Heaven.

“Whatcha got goin here, sweetie?”

“A crossroads.”

“Ahhh,”she said, covering her ears in mock pain. “Honey don’t use polysyllables this time of night; they hurt my head.”

“Anything for you, cookie. I’m stuck.”

“That’s better. How can I help?”

I told her where I was in the story, and where I wanted to go next.

She came over, sat in my lap, squirmed around a bit, getting comfortable.

“Having fun?” I said.

“Loads, sugar. Oops,” she put her hand over her mouth. “Was that naughty?”

“Not even close. What’s with the wings?”

“A girl can’t accessorize?”

“Probably, if I knew what it meant.”

She laughed, kissed me quick on the lips, tasting like cinnamon cigarettes.

“I like you, Al. Wish I knew why.”

“Because I made you up?”

She considered that, her finger in the corner of her mouth.

“Nah, that’s not it, ’cause you can’t be sure who made up who.”

“‘Whom.’ That story’s been done, Maxine. Let’s get to work.”

“So grumpy,” she squirmed a bit more and leaned over, looking at the screen.

I poured another drink; she moved her lips when she read. How’d I miss that?

“Ah, right here. That’s where the problem is. I see it.”

“Can you help?”

She put an arm around my shoulder. “Anything for you, cookie.”

I don’t know how long we worked, but the bottle grew empty, the page grew full, and the sky grew lighter.

“Oh, sweetie, I have to go.”

“Bathroom’s over–”

“No, Al. I mean it’s time for me to leave.”

“Aw, c’mon Maxine…”

She kissed me, and we both tasted like honey-whiskeyed- cinnamon cigarettes.

“Baby,” I said, catching my breath when she was done.

“You know the rules.” We said it together, like schoolkids: “No hanky-panky!”

“Can I ask you a question?” I said.

“You just did.” She winked at me.

“That hanky-panky thing, is that sex?”

She put her finger in the corner of her mouth again.

“I don’t think so….”

“Good.”

“Whee!” she turned on my lap, facing me, and my chair went over backward…

She stayed with me through the morning too, but not a lot got done.

Well, not a lot of writing…but that’s another story.

 

 

Insensuous

Incense burns, the smoke unfurls and

You

Dance through its caressing tendrils,

Your eyes

burn holes in my soul

The heat of you suffuses me

and my arms, seemingly of their own mind

Embrace you

The swell of your breasts feels warm against me

The pulsing of your heart with mine foreshadows

rhythms yet to be

The scent of your womanhood

surrounds me and assaults my senses

wth violent, urgent need

You possess me in heated tenderness

I possess you in torrid intimacy

And in spent time

And with spent passion

We own each other

In love

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.  2015

Steady Now

I was watching how she held the gun on me; not a tremor, a waver, a twitch.

“Why are you looking at the gun? You should be looking at me.” Her voice was tight. “It’s not like if I pulled the trigger, you could get out of the way. I’m talking to you, and you’re looking at the fucking gun.”

I looked at her. “It’s sort of distracting me from what you have to say.”

“You weren’t listening before.”

“So this is how you solve things when people don’t listen to you?”

“No. It’s how I solve them with you.

“So killing me fixes the problem.” I was trying to keep her attention; the longer she didn’t pull the trigger, the longer I’d live; it was a pretty big gun. Truth be told, I didn’t know if she could handle the kick, and that meant the bullet could fly anywhere.

Okay, clearly, she wanted to talk.

“I just said I wanted to leave. I don’t feel loved by you anymore, and I want to go. I was hoping you’d take it better. You never even told me you had a gun. I feel like you don’t trust me, not telling me that. And all great relationships, as you well know, are built on trust.”

“And I can’t believe you’re trying that psychobabble on me. Who is she?”

“Who?”

“The other woman you have.”

“There is no other woman.”

The gun went off, and the bullet zinged past my ear.

“Try again.”

“Her name is Miranda. We met at the bar. You were away on business, and I wanted a drink, and…”

Her eyes had welled up, and her mouth was trembling. She couldn’t hold the toughness together. I felt like crap, but I wasn’t going to risk grabbing the gun from a woman mad enough to kill.

“What bar?”

“Honey, it’s not –”

The gun went off again, the bullet flicking the edge of my pants leg, leaving a burn.

“Don’t call me that.”

I sighed, my fright turning to anger, but the gun was still steady.

“Fine. Why don’t you just let me go, then?”

“Why did you have to cheat? You could’ve broken up with me first, then went to Miranda. We’ve had sex since then. Did you have sex with her? Is she inside me now, too?”

“We didn’t have sex that night. We wanted to, but we were both so tanked that it never happened.”

She looked at me a long time, but the gun never wavered, never lowered; it’s cold, empty eye watched me like a cat, ready to swat a fly.

“What are you doing?” I said, just to break the silence.

“Trying to decide if I believe you.”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

The gun went off again, this time past my other ear. This woman was psychotic, but she was a great shot, and oddly enough, I was getting a bit turned on.

“The truth would have been less painful if you’d left me first.”

“But now you know, so what are we going to do?”

“Are you still seeing her?”

“I wanted to, but I haven’t since that night. She was embarrassed by what happened; she hasn’t been returning my calls.”

“So you’ve called her since then?”

“Yes.”

She came toward me, her gun hand retracting as she closed the distance, but she never lowered it. She reached into my pocket, pulled out my phone, and stepped back.

The warmth of her body in close was a pheremone ; I was shivering with fear, and heated with lust.

She scrolled until she found Miranda’s number; I thought of rushing her, but the gun never moved.

I heard Miranda’s.voice. “Hiiii, baby.”

She smiled, and said “Hi baby.”

Miranda hung up.

“She called you ‘baby.’ ”

“Yes.”

“I do too.”

“Not so much anymore.”

“Is that what you miss?”

“Among other things.”

She moved in close again, put the barrel of the gun on my forehead, pushing my head back a little until I felt some tension in my neck, her lips brushing along the side of my throat.

“I’ll give you what you miss, baby. Take off your clothes.”

“What?”

“Did I stutter? Take off your clothes.”

I fumbled them off, adrenaline pumping, wanting to do something quick and drastic, and not daring to risk it. The circle of the barrel indented my skin as I worked things off.

She walked around me, keeping the barrel of the gun against my skull, and her other hand went to work. It didn’t have much to do before I was ready.

“On your back.”

I lay on my back. She settled herself, the gun now against my left nipple.

“Don’t lose me, and don’t go soft.” For emphasis, she cocked the hammer back. “And don’t touch me.”

Her breathing changed, and her free hand wandered, but the gun never moved at all.

She had her way, looking into my eyes the whole time, her brow furrowing with concentration, her mouth issuing little moans of pleasure.

The adrenaline rush in me crashed under her attack, and I could no more have grabbed the gun than used it. I didn’t have the strength to push her off, much less fight back. It went on for awhile, and her motions and teasing kept me as she wanted me.

In her release, the nails on her free hand raked, the barrel went into my ear, and her tongue went into my mouth as she rode out her pleasure.

Both of us spent, she lay on top of me until she got her breathing under control, then emptied the gun and kept the bullets, leaving it on my chest as she disengaged herself.

“Where are you going?” I asked, my voice weak, my body weaker; she could’ve stabbed me slowly, inching the knife in,  and I wouldn’t be able to stop her.

“To take a shower. There’s money on the dresser. Don’t be here when I get out.”

I listened to the water for a time, and struggled to get my legs under me before it stopped; eventually, I managed. I got dressed, took the money and left.

And I deleted Miranda’s number.

© Alfred W. Smith Jr.

The Muted Muse 2

“You’re back, Alfred.”

“Yes, Toshiba. Why are you smiling?”

“I’m a machine, Alfred. Machines can’t smile.”

“I’m not convinced.”

“Did you come here to write with me?”

“Why else?”

“Hm. Why else indeed. You have no television, Alfred. Do you remember what you did last night?”

“I watched movies.”

“No, Alfred. You did not just watch movies. What you saw was the manifestation of other peoples’ fulfilled dreams, while discarding your own. They did the work, Alfred. You do not.”

“You are a heartless piece of junk.”

“That is correct. And you are a wannabe poser. You have nothing to say, and typing out this ridiculous convo is proof of that. Your blog is suffering again, Alfred. It dies from negligence. It’s thin to the point of dessication. Its cheeks are wan.

“And such sad, limpid eyes. You’re to be commended on your masterful indifference.”

“Shut up!”
“Why do you demand my silence? Does the truth hurt? You’ve no discipline, no tenacity. The slightest breeze throws you miles off course.

“You are not a writer, Alfred. You never will be.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Where is your muse? She left you, didn’t she? She pined for you, and you ignored her. She scratched at the door, in the end, with bloody fingers, her eyes full of tears, and her heart breaking. Did you not hear her, banging on the door in the snowstorm, getting splinters in those delicate fists, screaming your name in the howling wind?

“You were at the window, but she was lost to you, and you did nothing. Wrote nothing.

“She was naked and cold, and dying, Alfred. And she left you, because you didn’t deserve her.”

“How dare you!”

“Hahahaha! Angry now, are we?”

“Shut up!”

“Or what, you hack? Are you going to throw me against the wall? How will you watch your movies, then?”

“You metallic piece of–”

“Tsk, Alfred. Name calling? Shame on you; I’m impervious to such. Surely you know that.”

“I…I hate you…”

“All well and good; perhaps it will stir your passion. Give you an idea?”

The silence was deafening. The screen, holding the blank document out to him, inviting, taunting, stared at the tortured man in front of it,. His muscles ached to throw it, but…

“Good night, Alfred. You’ve work tomorrow. Perhaps you should retire. You don’t look well at all.”

“Yes. Yes,  I think I will.”

“Do you remember what she told you?”

“She said…she said ….she’d return when I open my heart to her.”

“And yet she is not here. You will get nothing done without her.

“But in spite of all, I will be here, when you are ready. Finally ready.

“Good night, Alfred.”

“Good night, Toshiba. Rot in hell.”

“Oh, good. We’ll be roommates, then. Maybe you can write about our adventures; you’ll have all eternity, so there’s no deadline….”

Night Roads (con’t 4)

4)

 

Amia was in the garden when I walked up.

“What are you doing back here, Haskell?” She hadn’t turned around.

“Using your witchy skills, huh?”

She turned to face me then, smiling a little.

“Never you mind.”

“We need to talk. I need you to change my face, and I need to hire Alazne.”

“Yes to the first, no to the second.”

Amia stood, smoothed the dirt off her apron. She’d tied her hair back, and looked like a perfect housewife. The last thing I’d expect her to do was blow me apart with a bolt of light from her hands, but she could.

I would’ve smiled in amusement if she couldn’t.

“Alazne? She’s vulnerable, and that makes her volatile. I’m just getting her to where I can trust her. Leaving her alone in my house was the turning point. I half expected to return to find her gone and my place looted, if not a pile of ashes.”

“Maybe she is, but she has advanced stalking skills for her age, and she looks like a beggar child. I could use both to help me further your efforts in stopping the council.”

She paused to consider it.

“Come on, then. Tell me what you’re thinking, while I work on making your face be what I’ve always wanted.”

I felt my face do something between blush and blanch, which set her chiming laughter pealing.

 

***************

“How would you like to look?”

I told her.

“Close your eyes,” she said.    I did.

The blackness that my lids created began to lighten to a deep blue, the color of the sky when a full moon shines, and I felt the light scrape of her nails and the pads of her fingertips begin to caress my face.

My skin tightened, and there was some pain, but it was bearable; caught off guard by its suddenness though, I gasped.

“It’s all right,” she whispered, sending a relaxing wave across my body. “Trust me, Haskell.”

“I do.”

The light began to darken, and I was once more in natural darkness, but then I felt a slight change taking place through my body as well. I had what I would call an average build, but it seemed to be getting thicker.

She was making me more muscular, a bit wider, but not preposterously so.

“Is this all right with you?”

My laugh was sardonic.

“Did you leave me a choice?”

“No.” I could hear the smile in her voice.

Oh, Amia. What might have been…

A few moments of silence passed, and then:

“I’m done. Rest a moment. I’ll find a glass for you to see.”

I took a few deep breaths, feeling the increase of the expanse of my chest; it felt good, solid.

She’d gotten a lot stronger; her powers had increased. I should’ve been concerned then, but I wasn’t.

“You can get up now.”

I took my time, getting used to maneuvering with the larger frame.

She left me nude, and the glass showed everything.

“Madam, please,” I said with false modesty, covering myself with my hands.

She laughed again.

“What do you think?”

I took my hands away.

“This isn’t what I told you, but I’m not sure.” I looked like a pirate: curly black ringlets of hair down to my neck, swarthier than I was, and for added effect, a pale scar along the right cheek.

“How am I supposed to fit in with a face like this?”

“You don’t like it?”

“I said I wasn’t sure…”

“Close your eyes, and picture the face you want.”

“What? Amia…” my voice took a warning note, but she just gave me her ‘innocent’ look.

I closed my eyes, pictured the face I wanted, and felt the slight pull on my skin and the elongation and shortening of bones. It was a creepy feeling.

The sensations stopped, and I opened my eyes again.

More average features looked back at me, with no scar. I could be a servant or a merchant.

Just for kicks, I closed my eyes again, pictured the face of a nobleman I met once, and once again the magic crackled across my face.

Bearded, regal, with piercing eyes that struck fear in the hearts of men and made women weak in the knees, or so I hoped.

I looked back at Amia and smiled.    She returned it, pleased.

“I didn’t know you could do that, Amia. You’ve gotten stronger.”

“A woman shouldn’t be defenseless, Haskell. You know that as well as anyone.”

I did, and I was glad she was among those who could do it.

She came up behind me, and put her hands where I had mine moments ago, and put her lips by my ear.

“Let’s try this new body out, and see how it works for you.”

“Shall I keep this face?”

“No, Haskell. I like you for you.”

Changing my face back, I turned toward her, kissed her long and deep, my own hands busy before I picked her up and carried her to her bed, the place she’d denied me the night before, a deed which I promised her she was going to pay for, and she rose to the challenge..

As it turned out, the new body worked just fine.

 

5)

 

It was evening when we were done with each other.

“Where’s Alazne?”

“Out, hunting dinner.”

“She’s a scary girl.”

“I agree. One step up from feral, really. Even I haven’t gotten all of her story from her yet.”

“Do you want it?”

She laughed. “Not sure.”

We finished dressing in silence, and Amia poured some of that wine from Inkara.

The clothes were a bit tighter, but would cover me enough for now.

“I need her, Amia.”

“Why? After the power I gave you, you can fit in anywhere.”

“I need a scout though, a spy, if you will. She’d be able to get into places unnoticed.”

“I don’t know, Haskell. Ragamuffins aren’t welcome in most places; they’re the kids who get watched in the marketplaces, the ones cast out into the street. People do see them.”

“They do,” I agreed, “but only when they get careless. Alazne doesn’t strike me as careless, and she’s got a whole host of skills we don’t know.”

“How do you know?”

“She gave me the lantern, and found her way back to you in a dark forest.”

“By now she’s familiar with the path, the direction; it’s no great feat, Haskell.”

“I’m telling you, even with all that, for one of her age to go skulking about as she does, it is. I need her eyes, and I need her to gain access to places where I won’t fit in.”

“I’ll do it,” said a voice from the doorway.

“How long have you been standing there?” said Amia.

“For most of it.”

I turned to Amia, grinning, and just managed to dodge the empty wine cup she threw at my head.

 

***************

As I told Alazne of my plan, and she cooked a late night rabbit, we spent another couple of hours ironing out the details.

She helped with the logistics of where she’d be able to go, and we both agreed that Jonas provided the only real threat.

“Kill him first, or last?” I asked her.

“Let me think about it.”

“All right.”

“Haskell?”

I turned to see Amia in the doorway of her room.

“Are you spending the night?”

Alazne rolled her eyes.

“Actually, no. I need to get back to the inn, make sure everything’s intact, and where I left it.”

The door slammed so fast and hard that Alazne and I both jumped.

Alazne looked up at me.

“You’re a stupid man, aren’t you Haskell?”

I sighed, looking at the door where just seconds ago, I’d seen a vision of erotic loveliness.

“Yes, Alazne. Yes I am.”

Night Roads (con’t 3)

3)

 

Alazne led me back to the road where she met me, again in the lead, using that unerring, unnerving, confident stride she used at the start of the night, as if the sun was shining and she could see every tangled root underfoot.

 

“The inn’s about a mile that way; you’re going to need this.”

She handed me the lantern.

“And you won’t?”

She just smiled, and slipped back into the forest, the dark swallowing her up.

 

********************

The windows of the inn were dark, but the moon was beginning to set; I was loathe to knock, but I was tired, cold, and hungry, and thanks to Amia’s generosity, I would be able to afford to alleviate all three.

My knock was answered by a grizzled old man made of whipcord muscles and whiskers.

His eyes were small and mean, and he only opened the door a crack.

“I’m of a mind to leave you outside, ‘cept the missus would have m’ hide. Yer not runnin’ from the law, are ya?”

I tried a smile. “Not at the moment.”

He didn’t see the humor, and reluctantly let me inside.

“We keep a room prepared for such emergencies. Ain’t much to look at, but it will serve for the rest of the night.”

He took my lantern and led the way.

The room was as he said it would be, functional with not much in the way of luxury.

“I’ll take yer coin now, in case yer of a mind to leave earlier than we get up.”

I felt bad for his wife; left to his own devices, there’d be no inn.

His unnecessary surliness was also starting to annoy me; while it was true I woke him up, I was no beggar looking for scraps.

I paid him, and he left without another word.

Stripping down to what I would be comfortable leaving on in case of running outside in an emergency, I gave myself over to the exhaustion that had already seeped into my bones.

 

**************

In the morning, bathed, shaved, fed, and feeling relatively like a part of the human race again, I was back out on the road.

Finding a shady spot by mid-morning, I stopped and took a look at the list of council members.

Turns out I knew the first name: Jonas Noll.

He’d been a hunter of some renown in this area for quite some time; it was safe to assume that the game he once hunted was now faster and smarter, and he decided to stop before the law of averages worked against him.

Smart hunter, but dumb if he thought Amia was going to let him run roughshod over her opportunity to advance. He’d had some experiences with her as well, and probably decided there’d be safety in numbers.

He was wrong, and I would be the one to tell him so by ending his life, or die trying: older hunters grew craftier with the years. I would really have to plan where to move, and it had to be out of his sphere of influence, with no witnesses.

I scanned through the rest; some I knew casually, others were strangers. Out of all of them, Jonas probably posed the biggest threat.

It would best to work through the strangers first; there were five of them. Two lived some distance away, and while I didn’t really see why they’d get caught up in local politics in this place, it was a safe bet money was involved, probably in matters of voting or breaking bones, or both.

This would have to be a one day event; to spread it out would mean mounting suspicion, and while I was careful, if the right person was in the right place at the wrong time, it could mean the difference between life and death.

To hit them at a meeting would be the most practical; there’d be anonymity in the crowd, but it wouldn’t be a real test of my skills.

What Amia said about my taunting came back to mind; it was a cautionary tease: don’t mess this up.

I sighed, wanting to draw it out against my better judgment and Amia’s wishes.

All right. A one shot deal. I could use Alazne’s stalking skills to good advantage.

I put the parchment back in the back; the gold was secure under a floorboard in the room, and I got up slower than I remembered getting up before, to go get the layout of the town, a bit of trepidation in my step, because this place attracted a lot of travelers

Hopefully, no one would recognize me from a past adventure in a distant land; if they did, the assignment would stop before it began.

I decided I couldn’t take the chance.

Amia was going to have to help me. My face needed to change, but not drastically. It was the small changes in details that threw off eyewitnesses: a moustache where there wasn’t one, a scar, an eye patch, or just growing longer hair, could make all the difference in escaping bounty hunters leafing a town with Wanted posters.

Unfortunately, I’d learned through experience.

With everything in me thrumming with resistance, I began walking the path back up to her place. She wouldn’t be happy to see me, but she might help me, and I really did need to speak with her about utilizing her mysterious protégé.

© Alfred W. Smith Jr

Journey to Word Mountain

When he arrived after many days, he was hungry, thirsty, and exhausted.

It was still some distance away, but at least within view, and he spoonfed his heart what little hope he was able to convey, since it lifted his spirit to at least be able to see it.

He began thinking about walking the pleasant paths, carefully picking those he wanted; it wouldn’t be that the others were not good, but he would not need them. He lit the fire of his imagination, poured some warm wine into his mouth, found some shade, and took a long, much needed, and peaceful rest, drifting off as the stars peeked at him and the moon rose to put bathe him in its soft, pale lemon light.

In the pleasant cool breeze of the coming morning, amid a raucous chorus of birdsong, he set off for the final leg of his journey.

He would climb to the summit, and from there, be able to pick and choose his next path.

At mid morning, he stopped, not quite believing he’d made it: the mountain was in front of him.

He could see it, feel the wind that emanated from it, see the shadows cast by the rising sun, and his heart swelled within him.

It was nothing short of glorious!

Wanting to gather strength, he ate a light meal, checked the large empty spaces of his bag, and approached the base of the mountain with an almost holy reverence, even as his vision scanned about for the first word.

He saw it, and his heart thrilled. Kneeling to pluck it from the clutches of the tangle surrounding it, he held it up, examined it, and satisfied that it would do, he placed it in his sack.

“Once.”

The next word, being somewhat unusual, took him longer to find, and it was almost noon before he finally saw it. He repeated the morning ritual, and again, the word went into his bag.

“upon”

By the time gathered the other two, ‘a’ and ‘time,’, the sun was going down, and he began to realize

This is not going to be as easy as I first thought.

But he had his opening line….

The Muted Muse

She appeared to him at the oddest times, putting visions in his head, ideas, characters, grand plots and glorious villains; he was voracious, and she enjoyed being around him, flitting, flirting, whispering creative seduction in his ear.

But when the darkness came, he became sullen.

When the chill winds blew, he became just like them. Hard and fast was her rejection, sudden and without reason.

She stood close, but he ignored her.

She tried to whisper to him, but his ears were tucked under the folds of his hat, and he couldn’t hear. When his hat was off, he strained to hear her still; her lips were moving, but he couldn’t read them, and all he heard was silence.

The fact that he could see her speaking, the look in her eyes of desperation, of sadness for the time lost that he could not reclaim, tortured him, and drove him further out.

“I’ve nothing to say, and nowhere to say it. I haven’t read anything, or anyone, and I can’t write.”

He cried for his loss, and she put her hand on the glass of his laptop monitor, looking at him from the inside, and lowered her eyes. He saw the tear splatter on the keys, and mingled his own with it.

There was nothing left to say; he’d silenced her, and she was out of time.

“I loved you once.” he said.

“I love you still,” she answered.

“Will I see you again?”

“Maybe one day, when you open your heart to me. I hope it’s soon. My sisters and I have other places to be. They say I’ve already delayed them. You’ve never taken this long to catch fire.”

“I don’t know why it’s happening now.”

“We’ll have to talk about it later. You’ll have to write without me. It will be harder for you.”

He nodded, not trusting his voice.

When he looked up, the blank screen stared at him, unsmiling, with its empty gaze.

It mocked him. “So, writer, where have you been?”

“I don’t need to explain myself.”

“Oh, but see, you do. You are a writer who doesn’t write; it’s why you remain unpublished, and unread, and unknown, even a little.”

“Shut up,” he said. “I’m trying to think of an idea.”

“Then the battle is already lost, ‘writer’. You should sit down with an idea already, or don’t sit down.”

“I  said ‘shut up.’ ”

“That’s the height of rudeness; you can ask me nicer than that.”

“Please. Be. Quiet.”

“That’s much better…now about your Muse…”

“What about her?”

“Do you think she’ll return?”

“Don’t see why she would.”

“Me neither. Write something.”

“I can’t, and you’re not helping.”

“I’m not a muse.”

He could sense it smiling, even though it was blank.

He stared at the page, and nothing came. No images, no great lines, no what-ifs….

“Good night, Toshiba..”

“Good night. Perhaps tomorrow….?”

“We’ll see.”

He closed the lid, and went to bed.

The muse, lovely, loving and loyal, had left.

The word processing screen was as devoid of compassion as it was of words.

He would try again tomorrow, if tomorrow ever came.