Tag Archives: improvisation

Tiger and Turtle

Image: layoutsparks.com

Image: layoutsparks.com

Tiger and Turtle

Truth be tol’, I feel like hell the day Turtle and me decide to ride the rollercoaster.

‘They ain’t gon’ let us on,’ I say. ‘Les’ jus’ bounce.’

‘Fool, I know the ticket guy, ai’ght? No sweat.’ I can’t do nothin’ but shrug, and hope my head stops hurtin’ soon.

Eventually, we facin’ the top of the line.

‘You two jokers, right?’ says Ticket Booth guy. ‘Git. You gotta be this tall –‘ he points at some grinnin’ fool on a billboard – ‘to ride.’ But Turtle, he knew a back door. Soon, we on board.

My head bustin’ like a neverendin’ punch, an’ Turtle talkin’, but I ain’t hearin’. Two seats in front, there’s a tiger sittin’, stripes an’ tail flickin’. He turns, growlin’, an’ I smell his meat breath.

Coaster starts movin’, an’ I lean across to Turtle, real slow.

‘Turtle, man,’ I say, so low he can’t barely hear.

‘What you sayin’?’ he yells, leanin’ in. He soun’ like a freight train.

‘Turtle, man! Up front. Up front!’ I’m flickin’ my eyes in Tiger-boy’s direction but it ain’t no good. Turtle, he refuse to see.

‘What in the hell wrong wit’ you, boy?’ He fling hi’self back into his seat and fol’ his arms like he waitin’ for church to start. ‘You crazy.’

‘You don’t see nothin’?’ The tiger smilin’ at me now, his teeth shinin’ gold. Plenty o’ room in that ol’ mouf for me an’ Turtle too, and then some.

‘Ain’t nothing there to see,’ Turtle say, lookin’ out at the world. ‘No, sir.’

My head fit to bust, then. Feelin’ like my skin gon’ split, startin’ right at the top o’ my head, flayin’ down to my footsoles. The ol’ tiger, well. He turn, his shoulder ripplin’ like a black an’ yellow ocean, like a cornfield full o’ shadow. He turn s’more, one giant paw comin’ to res’ right on the seat in front. My brain screamin’. The tiger’s eye like a dyin’ star.

‘Turtle, man – I ain’t feelin’ so good,’ I say, an’ it the truth. My eyeballs fit to come pop right out my skull and lie, fizzin’, on my fool cheeks. I need to get out my seat, but the coaster flyin’ by now. I strugglin’, Turtle beside me suckin’ his teeth, leanin’ out the side.

‘Quit yo’ wrigglin’!’ he snap, turnin’ to me with his eyes wide.

An’ then the tiger, he pounce. He fall like a hammer, like a mountain. He brung night with him, pure dark, full o’ noises and danger and the stink o’ death. Then I hear Turtle screamin’, an’ my head explode. I bust up an’ out, th’owin’ off my skin, my self, an’ my arms ain’t arms no mo’, my hands ain’t hands.

I got claws longer n’ my ol’ body. I got pelt. I got teeth.

So I sink ’em, ever’thin’, into ol’ Tiger-boy.

As we fallin’ out the coaster I hear him laughin’.

Welcome, chile, he say. I knew it was you.

Wednesday Write-In #88

plastic  ::  verdant  ::  gingham  ::  lighthouse  ::  bathe

 

Image: camperlands.co.uk

Image: camperlands.co.uk

The Sleeper

The wind rippled across the surface of the rain-sodden plastic, lifting it into sharp-edged waves. It crackled and snapped, spitting water up at me like it was angry. It was like an animal protecting its young.

‘Between me and you,’ said Brennan, ‘d’you think this is it?’ He didn’t look at me. He just stood on the far side of the sea of plastic like a lighthouse, passing his worried gaze back and forth over it with gentle sweeps of his head. The rain ran down the lenses of his glasses.

‘I hope so,’ I said. Brennan blinked and glanced over at me, frowning. ‘You know what I mean,’ I muttered, and he said nothing for a while. I shrugged deeper into the collar of my coat, feeling cold droplets bathe me right down to the bones. I wondered if I’d ever feel warm again.

‘I suppose it’d be a comfort for the family. What’s left of them,’ he said, eventually.

‘Exactly.’

The plastic reared again, and I caught the barest glimpse of faded, dirt-encrusted gingham embedded in the claggy, dark soil. It made the bile rise inside me, and an image flashed across my mind; a tiny, smiling face, straw-coloured hair in one long plait. The little checked sundress she’d worn that day in June when she’d vanished, disappeared from the verdant fields around her house, never to be seen again.

Never, until now.

‘Jesus,’ said Brennan. ‘Grab that rock, there, and weigh it down. We have to preserve the scene until Forensics gets here.’ I turned to do as I was told, and caught a glimpse of the farmer who’d found her, standing cap in hand behind a line of luminous tape. I could hear someone talking to him, asking him questions, but all he was doing was just staring, feet planted in the soil, eyes full of water, up at the makeshift grave that had been on his land for the better part of forty years. Maybe he’d raised his own family in sight of it.

I turned back to see Brennan struggling with the groundsheet, and hurried to help. We smoothed the plastic down over her like it was a blanket, tossed by a bad dream or a too-hot summer night. She settled into peaceful sleep once more.

I put my hand on the sodden plastic and I swear I felt it rise, like a little, contented breath had been taken beneath it, and finally released.

Is It Friday Yet?

Man.

This has been a long, hard week – in so many ways. Reality (boo hiss!) has prevented me from doing as much writing as I’d like, and the writing I have done has been execrable nonsense. No – really.

As proof, let me proffer the following.

I laboured for hours yesterday on a piece of flash fiction which I had intended to submit to a prestigious competition. Its closing date? Today. Yeah. Not so clever.

Image: kotaku.com

Image: kotaku.com

Normally, my internal ‘deadline widget’ would keep me from making such a colossal mess-up, but for whatever reason it was on the fritz this week, and so things started to get on top of me. Anyway, after all the hard work of producing this piece of flash – and, for a while, I genuinely thought it was okay – I read it over this morning and realised that it literally makes no sense. None whatever. As well as that, the stuff that happens in it is physically impossible – which I know doesn’t really matter, because it’s a story. However, when the crux of what you’re writing hangs on something that couldn’t actually happen in reality, and the story relies on the events taking place just as they would in reality, then you’ve got a problem.

So, as you can imagine, there’s been plenty of wailing and tooth-gnashing this morning, and the day hasn’t even begun properly.

It hasn’t been helped by the fact that today’s Flash! Friday prompt was cruelly complicated.

image: batoto.net

image: batoto.net

All in all, I wonder if today’s one of those days which should just be rebooted. Shame I can’t just Ctrl+Alt+Del and get on with things in a better and more sensible universe.

Anyway.

So, today’s Flash! Friday required element was ‘Vendetta’ – not the word, but the concept. The prompt image was as follows:

Image: en.wikipedia.org (entry: Rosie the Riveter)

Image: en.wikipedia.org (entry: Rosie the Riveter)

And the following wee bitty tale is what I made out of all that prompty goodness.

Top Secret

I watched them, all three, huddled over Marcia’s workbench. My little buddies. Joe and his fan-club. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

‘C’mon!’ he urged. The glow of Marcia’s torch threw them into sharp relief. Carla was – I guessed – supposed to be on watch, but as always when she got close to the action, she forgot herself.

‘It looks swell,’ she said, with a low laugh. ‘Real swell, Joe!’

I took a step closer, thankful for my rubber-soled shoes. I could see the little hairs curling on the back of Carla’s neck now, smell the tang of her sweat. The torch’s hiss covered my approach.

My project – my pipework – lay on Marcia’s bench. She was welding something to the front of it. Something obscene. Something which would’ve gotten me fired.

I sighed.

I should’ve just let Joe do what he wanted, that time. Touch me. Take me.

My throat tightened.

I raised the wrench, planted my stance, and took aim.

**

I guess the fact that I managed to get a story (one I’m happy with, too) out of a pair of fiendishly complicated prompts should make me feel a bit happier about my labours. It doesn’t make up for  yesterday’s silliness, but I suppose it’s all about the horizon, isn’t it. No point looking back. Keep going. Stiff upper lip (whatever that means.)

And, thank custard, it’s Friday. Next week I’m going to be machine-like in my efficiency and productivity. I can feel it.

Happy weekend, all y’all. And thanks.

 

Wednesday Writing

There didn’t seem to be a Wednesday Write-In today, so I decided to improvise. One random word generator later, and the following words were mine:

Guarantee :: oar :: napkin :: silo :: slippers

Keep reading to find out what I made of ’em.

Image: dreamstime.com

Image: dreamstime.com

The Bearers

It all kicked off the mornin’ Daddy found an intruder in the silo. I knew somethin’ was wrong by the way he came walkin’ out of the barn – he looked like someone had glued his teeth shut, and he was in desperate need to yell.

‘Margaret,’ he said, comin’ up to the kitchen door, and leanin’ in. ‘Get my gun.’ His voice was quiet, which is how I knew he was real mad.

‘Now, Gus,’ said Mama, shufflin’ over to him. Her slippers whispered across the linoleum, and her arms went out like a statue of Ol’ Mary, except her robe wasn’t blue. ‘There ain’t no guarantee -‘

‘I asked for my gun, Margaret,’ said Daddy. ‘If you don’t fetch it for me this minute, I’m gon’ be forced to track through the house with my yard boots on, and there won’t be nothin’ you can say about it.’

‘Daddy, what’s goin’ on?’ I asked, wipin’ my mouth with my fingers as Mama left the room. I always got myself in a buttery mess when Mama made pancakes for a breakfast treat.

‘God’s sake, Lily! Use a paper napkin, or a washcloth, or somethin’,’ snapped Daddy, wrinklin’ his nose at me. ‘You’re raised better’n that.’ I hid my face as Mama came back, carryin’ Daddy’s shotgun. It was open, lyin’ broken over her arm like a freshly killed deer.

‘You can get your own cartridges, Gus Lamping,’ she said, handin’ him the gun. ‘I ain’t goin’ to have nothin’ more to do with this.’ Daddy grunted as he took the weapon from her, which would have to do for ‘thank you,’ I guessed.

‘Daddy! I’ll get your cartridges,’ I said, slidin’ down off my chair. ‘Please?’

‘Lily-Ella Lamping,’ he snapped, not lookin’ at me. ‘This ain’t no thing for a girl to be gettin’ mixed up in.’

‘Aw, please?‘ My heart was slitherin’ down inside me like it was losin’ its grip. ‘Daddy, I wanna see! Is it – is it one of them?‘ Sometimes, I wondered if the disease, and The Bearers who spread it, were nothin’ more than a fairytale Mama and Daddy’d made up, just for me.

‘Whatever’s in that barn is not for your eyes, child,’ said Mama, gatherin’ up her collar and holdin’ herself close. ‘You stay in here, with me.’

‘Yes, Mama,’ I said, watchin’ as Daddy slipped out through the screen door, trudgin’ around to the lean-to. I wasn’t supposed to know where his cartridges were kept, but I did. I imagined him findin’ the box, and rustlin’ around in it while keepin’ one eye trained on outside, and loadin’ the gun without even havin’ to look.

I watched, real careful, as he slammed the door to the lean-to shut. He raised the gun to his eye – judgin’ the distance, I guessed, between the house and the barn, just in case one of them things decided to spring out through the barn door – and then he shook himself, just a little, like a person does when they get cold, suddenly.

‘Jesus Almighty,’ gasped Mama. ‘Lily-Ella, you get away from that window. Right now!’ I blinked, and kept my eyes on Daddy.

He turned to face me, smooth-like and strange, just as a boat that’s lost an oar is likely to. He looked in through the window, and his eyes met mine. The whites of them had turned to red. He settled his grip around the rifle, and poised to aim.

Lily!‘ screamed Mama, runnin’ to me. ‘Get down!

The blast of Daddy’s shotgun and the impact of Mama’s arms came so close together that they were all mixed up in my head. She dragged me down off the chair and we hit the floor in a tangle of limbs.

‘Lily,’ I heard Mama gasp. ‘You gotta run, baby. You gotta run!’

‘Mama, what’s happenin’?’ I could feel her blood, hot and everywhere, spreadin’ across the floor beneath us. Her breath smelled strange. Her eyes were wide, and blue as the dawn.

‘I am your Mama, Lily-Ella,’ she gasped, pink bubbles foamin’. ‘Nobody else. You gotta remember that, baby.’ As her eyes slid closed, Daddy’s shotgun spat one more time, and then there was silence.

Feelin’ like a badly-made doll, all sewn up wrong, I inched my way back to the window. Beyond the broken shards of it, my Daddy’s broken body lay, his own shotgun lyin’ inches from his pale fingers.

The barn door creaked, and my eyes skipped up before I could think better of it.

I saw a man, as like my Daddy as his twin would be, and a woman like my Mama on a good day, wearin’ a dress so pretty that it shone. Her hair was neatly styled, and she was clean – so clean. She smiled with a bright ruby mouth, and opened her arms like they were made for runnin’ into.

‘Come on, Lily-Ella,’ she called, and it was my Mama’s voice only better, shinier, more happy. ‘Come on over here. Mama’s waitin’.’

It was an effort to close my eyes, but I did it.

Mama’s in the kitchen, Daddy’s in the yard, I sang to myself as I slid to my knees and out of sight. I knew that they didn’t need eyes to see me, though – I knew, even through the wall, that they could hear my heart. Feel my blood pumpin’. Hear my breaths, fast and cracklin’. They were comin’.

But they can’t hear my thoughts, I realised. If Mama and Daddy taught me right, and I know they did.

I looked, and saw that Mama’d left the gas stove on, keepin’ warm for the pancakes she’d planned to make for Daddy. I knew, too, that she kept her lighter in the pocket of her housecoat, even though she hadn’t been able to get cigarettes for years – not since the Bearer Invasion, when the world had gone to hell.

I wiped my eyes.

‘Mama!’ I called, getting back to my feet and starin’ out at the creature wearin’ her beloved face. ‘Hey, Mama! I’m here! Come get me!’

It smiled, and I smiled right back, my Mama’s blood still warm upon my skin.

 

 

 

 

Some More Friday Flash

Frosty Friday greetings to you all, compadres. How goes it?

It’s a cool day here, and there are dark clouds lurking. I’m waiting for the hailstorms to start. We’re sitting in a little bubble of calm – the calm that prefaces, you just know, the biggest downpour imaginable. It’s my kind of weather.

It doesn't look quite like this, sadly.  Image: layoutsparks.com

It doesn’t look quite like this, sadly.
Image: layoutsparks.com

Work continues apace on the dismemberment of ‘Eldritch.’ I’m down to something like 48,000 words now (from about 63,000), and – particularly over the past few days – the restructuring has been going really well. It almost seems easy, which feels dangerous. I have to keep reminding myself that the words I’m working with (from the old version of the book) are a fourth or fifth draft, so it would make sense that they’re reasonably okay. Because of the revamp job I’m doing, though, it feels like I’m working on a first draft all over again, and so I’m expecting everything to be nonsense. When it isn’t, it feels weird.

Does that make sense? Probably not.

Here, have a picture of Sherlock looking confused. You're welcome. Image: sherlockreactionimages.tumblr.com

Here, have a picture of Sherlock looking confused. You’re welcome.
Image: sherlockreactionimages.tumblr.com

I am losing so much of what I thought made the book unique, and it’s not easy to carve away at words I spent so long perfecting, and choosing, and polishing, and placing with such care. But, at the same time, the story is moving along so much more quickly now and despite everything I’m getting rid of, I’m managing to hold on to lots of the fun aspects of the relationship between my two main characters. Perhaps the reason that my carve-up job is working well is because this is the way the story was meant to be, all along; I should never have been afraid to get rid of the overarching narrative conceit I had been using. I now see that it was confusing and clunky and unworkable, and just because it allowed me to tell the story from the point of view of two characters simultaneously was no reason to keep it.

Sometimes, simpler is better. In fact, nearly always, simpler is better. It’s just unfortunate that this ‘simple’ change has meant the near-total evisceration of the book.

Anyway.

So, it’s Friday. Which means I woke this morning and the first thing I did was check the Flash! Friday website for today’s clues. (No, I’m not addicted. Why on earth would you say that?)

Today’s story elements were as follows:

The compulsory element to include was ‘Aging’ – as a concept, not the actual word itself. The distinction is, of course, vital.

The prompt image was this:

Image: wallartisan.com

Image: wallartisan.com

And so, after much panicked cogitation, I came up with the following small tale:

The Long Step

Pablo knew his time had come, at last. In truth it had come years before, but nobody had wanted to take his hand and lead him to the mountain.

Nobody wanted to say goodbye.

But is wife had been gone so long that only the oldest children remembered her. The sickness had eaten her, and she’d chosen to take the Long Step early.

Pablo had no dependents now.

And so, one morning, he took his silent leave. He dressed simply, bringing only his stick. He slowly climbed the mountain road, savouring the air and the sky and the birdsong, the tang of sore muscles, the thump-thumping of his old heart.

Finally, he reached the end. The Long Step beckoned, out into eternity.

One final breath, and then…

Peace enfolded him, like a closing eye.

Surprised, the women at the mountain’s foot ran to catch the floating baby, newly reborn.

‘Who was due to Step today?’ they asked, but nobody knew.

**

Good luck with whatever the day brings your way, and remember: even if something feels like it’s not working out, or you’re afraid you’re doing something wrong, don’t worry. You could be just starting out on a larger plan, and everything is going to work out just fine.

Wait and see.

 

 

Wednesday Write-In #79

This week’s words for CAKE.shortandsweet’s Wednesday Write-In were:

strawberry  ::  tag  ::  code  ::  lower reaches  ::  hideaway

Image: ceressecrets.com

Image: ceressecrets.com

The Summer of Forever

Burton’s Berry Farm was the biggest in the county. All the kids from miles around, me included, blagged summer jobs there; it was hard work for rubbish pay, but it beat pulling ice-cream cones for screaming kids down at the seaside, hands down. At least you could eat as you worked, and Burton’s fields were big enough that you could do a certain amount of loafing without being spotted.

The sun was high, a tag or two of light wispy cloud just barely flecking the perfect blue of the sky, the day Joey was put in my drill. The air smelled like dry earth, and the hsss of the irrigation system was almost enough to lull you into mindlessness. I was lying on my side, using the strawberry plants like a hideaway as I rummaged through their lower reaches in search of the fattest fruit. It didn’t taste as good, but it weighed more, and that was all I cared about.

‘Hey,’ I heard. A shadow fell over me. Squinting, I looked up.

‘Oh – hey,’ I saidmy head exploding with are you clean do you smell what’s your hair like did you brush your teeth this morning? He dropped to his knees beside me, making me squint as the sunlight flashed straight into my face. I gathered myself up, making space for him.

‘So. What’s the drill?’ he said, looking sideways at me, his eyebrows waggling. ‘Get it? Drill?’ He nudged me with the point of his elbow, shaking his long fringe out of his face. Is he speaking code, or something? I wondered, for a long, stupid minute, long enough for the smile to fall from his face and be replaced by awkward embarrassment.

‘Drill!’ I said, finally, bringing one dirt-encrusted hand up to my face. ‘Duh. Yeah. Good one.’ I laughed, but the moment had passed. I tried not to look at him as I showed him how to pick, demonstrating the quick twisting motion that helped the berry to roll softly into the palm of your hand.

‘Be careful not to just chuck them into the punnet,’ I said. ‘He checks for spoilage, and you don’t get paid for the mushy ones.’

‘Got it,’ he replied, setting to work. At least an hour passed in silence.

‘So, you’re in my maths class, yeah?’ His voice startled me.

‘Yeah?’ I said, shrugging, my heart pick-pocking in my neck.

‘Looking forward to final year?’ He squinted at me, his skin already reddening. His arms were bare, the sleeves of his t-shirt ripped off, raggedly, at the seam. I half-smiled at him.

‘Yeah, right,’ I said. ‘Hello, the big bad world.’

‘Tell me about it,’ he said, rolling his eyes. ‘What’s your plan? You know, for afterwards?’

‘I can’t even think about it,’ I said, trying not to hear my mother’s voice splitting my head in half. Get yourself down to that supermarket and apply for a job on the tills, do you hear me? It’s good work, and it’s steady work, and it’ll do you! Or are you too good for an honest job, you little madam?

‘You’re going to college though, aren’t you? You should, anyway,’ he said, turning back to the plants.

‘What?’ I propped myself up on one elbow. He was already pink across the cheeks, and a damp patch spread across his chest and down the hollow of his back. ‘Why d’you say that?’

‘Well – because! You’re good at English, right? You wrote that poem, for last year’s school magazine?’ I flushed, feeling sick.

‘You read it?’ I buried my face in the greenery.

‘It was good,’ he said.

‘Shut up.’

‘It was!‘ He chuckled.

‘Shut up anyway!’ I laughed, but the rolling sickness was still there, underneath. He was silent, then, but a smile lingered on his face.

After a while I stretched into the hollow I’d dug in the soil, where I kept my stash of water. I took a long swallow, and was thoughtlessly sealing it back up again when I noticed him glancing over. He has no hat, I thought. No sun-cream. No water.

‘Want some?’ I said, offering him the sun-warmed bottle.

‘Thanks,’ he said, flashing me a grin. He licked his lips and flicked his hair out of his face again as he reached for it. I watched as he raised it to his mouth, and watched his lips move as he drank his fill, and watched his freckling skin while he was distracted with other things.

‘Sorry,’ he said, handing it back to me mostly empty. ‘I took too much.’

‘Don’t worry about it,’ I said, lifting it to my own mouth again before the touch of his skin faded from the plastic.

My pickings for that day were way down, and they didn’t come back up again at all that long, hot summer. Turned out, the fields at Burton’s were the perfect place for loafing.

Wednesday Write-In #77

This week’s words for CAKE.shortandsweet’s Wednesday Write-In were:

warm beer :: ridicule :: double vision :: colt :: connect

This week, a voice and a scenario came straight into my head, and it’s something slightly different from my usual style – or so I think, at least. Let’s see if you agree.

Image: ubercomments.com

Image: ubercomments.com

The Last Drop

I’m laughing when I fall into the kitchen – someone shoved me, but I’ll never know who. The swinging door slaps smack against the panelboard wall and I tumble, bumpidibump, through it.

‘Hey!’ I shout, already half-up from my knee-bashed crouch. ‘Not cool!’ I get ready to turn around and go after them, but something makes me stop. Something catches me.

And it’s then that I see you, perched on the countertop beside the half-open fridge, and you see me too and there’s that look in your eye again, that look, the one you used to get. Before.

‘Warm beer,’ I mumble, nodding at the fridge, and the words come out all sticky and burning, like napalm.

‘Nothing worse,’ you say and your voice is as fresh and shocking as rain in winter despite the fact that I have heard it before, so many times, and in so many different colours.

‘Yeah.’ I pull myself up onto my feet again and make myself swear I will not trip and I yank my fingers through my stupid hair and I start walking toward you like I was planning, all this time, to do it anyway.

‘How’ve you been?’ you ask as I get close enough to close the fridge door. It meets with a soft moist little noise, a flumf sort of noise, one that gets me thinking about other stuff, the sort of stuff that gives me double vision as I imagine the things that could have happened between us but didn’t.

‘How’ve I been?’ I sound so stupid. ‘Fine, I guess. School. The usual. You?’

‘Same,’ you say, tossing back the last of your beer. You still drink the same brand, and your hair is still golden on top and brown around the back of your ears and down your neck and you still move your head like a colt does, like a coiled spring, like you’re ready but you don’t know what for.

‘How’re your folks?’ I clear my throat, trying not to look at you. I don’t know why I even asked about them, because the ridicule still burns like a blowtorch flame, and the tears are all still fresh in my mind and the anger will never die. I remember what they called me and even though they didn’t use the same words to talk about you, I know you suffered too in your own way. You’re in a different school now, one where you can just be you and not a part of us. You put your beer bottle down so gently that it barely makes a tink on the marble.

‘Folks are fine,’ you say, and when you look at me I happen to be looking at you and then our eyes get all mixed up and there’s no escape. There’s the old connect again, the one where I know my heart’s beating in time with your heart and our breathing falls into step like two old friends.

But then, a stumble.

‘I’ve – got to go,’ you say, and you slither down off the counter like a little kid, all elbows and urgency, and you blink and look away and it feels like I’m falling. ‘Enjoy the party, or whatever.’ And then you’re gone.

I pick up your beer bottle and there’s just a tiny dreg left in the bottom of it and so I put it to my lips and drain it, my eyes feeling like two blobs of molten glass and my nose starting to melt inside. I drink back the sour drop, all that’s left, and then I chuck the bottle with all the other empties, and it settles down clinkidiclink among them like a long-lost traveller arriving home, until I don’t know which one is ours any more.

When I get back outside to the party, someone tells me you’ve gone home early, and I pretend that I don’t even care, and everyone is fooled.

Maybe even me, for just long enough to get me through.