Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Oh hi nix 2014!

Oh hello end of the year. I suppose I should have done something since we last met.

I’m supposed to write and be productive and progress in my life, right? That’s what they tell me. Do you know how that works? Like, do you have a guide I can read? I know you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have, and consider this my asking for some rookie help.

Oh well. That’s fine. I’ll just keep bashing my head on this wall then. I suppose I’ll see you again next year? Oh no. It should be totally different. I’ve got big plans! I’m going to write five times as much and have nine times more fun. And meet one hundred new people and have a thousand new and interesting experiences that no one has ever had before and other people won’t understand.


Oh, yeah, I know you’ve got a lot going on. Good work when you can get it, right? Ha ha. Ending the year and all. Ok. We’ll talk later.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 7 3/11/14

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Oliver's foot slipped in the mud, and he toppled backwards onto the slick bank. Lesstin grabbed the boy's hand without thinking, pulling him back from the edge. The older boy laughed as he dragged himself back toward stable ground.

“Nice grab Less!” Oliver said once he was safely atop the cliff. “I almost went for a swim!” He laughed again and kicked a fist-sized rock off the edge. They watched it fall and fall then splash into the river. “Hey, not too far, is it?”

Far enough down to make Lesstin feel ill. “I don't like it,” Lesstin admitted. As soon as he said it, he knew he shouldn't have. Oliver's smile changed from friendly to wicked. His mouth hooked down, and his eyes grew wide and happy.

 “Lessie doesn't like it?” Every word was punctuated with barbed laughter. “Is he afraid of the height?” He put Lesstin in a headlock and dragged him toward the edge. Behind them, Chase was laughing too. He always laughed when Oliver laughed. Today was supposed to have been different; they asked him to come along, and not because their mother had forced them to. But then Lesstin had to go and open his big mouth.

“Lay off Oliver.” The voice of a hero. Chase Million was the only boy who could tell Oliver what to do. Sometimes. “He just pulled you back from falling in the river.”

Oliver flung Lesstin onto the grass, and spun to face Chase. “So what? I aint fraid of the river. I'll jump off, right now. You think I won't?” He started fumbling with the buttons on his cuffs.

“Give over Ollie. Your pop would slap you purple if you came home with wet clothes, so aint the same with you stripping.” Chase offered a hand to help Lesstin back to his feet. “Crud, you ripped your jeans. Look at that Ollie, bet his pop will throw him through a wall.”

Lesstin's father would never do such a thing. His mom might click her tongue about the grass stains. But he was learning; he didn't say anything.

“Hey,” Oliver said. “Yeah, no deal, right?”

“No,” Lesstin said. The whole day had been a whirlwind. What had he done to make them want him along all of the sudden? He didn't know, and didn't really care. For once, they were glad to have him along.

Chase slapped Lesstin on the back, maybe a little hard. The voice of reason, maybe, but Oliver was his best friend, and the two were more alike than they were different. He laughed as Lesstin stumbled toward the cliff. “I know that look. We all got dads man.”

“He's a good sport, aint ya Less?” Oliver asked. He looked more relieved than cruel, but Lesstin stayed wary. The boy could switch from prancing to pouncing without notice. “I've always said so, haven't I Chase?”

“Sure have,” Chase agreed. Lesstin had never heard them say anything of the sort.

They turned and marched up the cliff side, toward the old train bridge. Rusting beams still connected the old cement pylons, but most of the suspension had been removed or collapsed long ago.

“We were thinking,” Oliver said, resting his arm around Lesstin's shoulder. “Some of the boys pick on you, don't they Lesstin? Call you baby, all sorts of stuff. Nah, nah, you don't need to answer. They're jerks. But Chase, me, our guys, no one says that to us. Do they Chase?”

“What?” Chase asked, as if he had never thought of such a thing. “If they said that, I'd pop them in the face, that's what I'd do. Did someone call you something Ollie?” Chase was the biggest boy boy in the sixth grade. Even the junior high kids left him alone.

“Nah,” Oliver said. “They know I'm too hard for that. But I was thinking, Lessie here, he might need some help. Cover from these...bullies.”

No one had ever talked to Lesstin like this before. He was the butt of the joke, the pincushion for everyone else's bad day.

“What do you guys want?” He asked. That big stupid mouth of his, running off again.

Oliver put his hands up. His cruel eyes were dancing, but his face looked insulted. “Hey now, we're trying to help you here.”

“You want to help me? Leave me alone.” He shrugged Chase's hand off his shoulder. He should have run right away when he saw them. They'd been following him for an hour now, but right then he had a chance to leave. He was fast and knew places to hide. He could have got away, but he had blown it. Stupid.
Chase grabbed Lesstin by the back of the neck. “Look runt, aint no one gonna leave you alone. You know that, smart boy.”

“Lay off Chase,” Oliver said. He looked friendly now. Lesstin had never seen that look before, and liked it less than the cruel dance by far. “We're not saying 'lets be friends.' But we're saying, hey, you got brains, and we got brawn. Mrs. Haden's watching us two close, so maybe we can't do much if you won't give us answers. But you want to, right?”

Lesstin hated giving answers to people, but it was better than getting thrown in the mud every day.

“I guess?” Lesstin said. “Why do I want to?”

“There's a clever one,” Oliver said. He grinned, pleased with himself. “Chase was telling me he doesn't like how Kib and Nate treat you. Weren't you Chase?”

“It aint right,” Chase said. His grin was wide as Oliver's. “But way I see it, they're only half the runt you are. I'll thwop them a bit, and tell em, leave Lesstin alone.” Chase pounded hand against palm.

“Course,” Oliver said, “you'll still have to help them pass. Call it tutoring or something. But you charge them, right? Like you used to, before everyone figured out you were a little twerp.”

Lesstin winced. He had come up with the idea the previous year, but it hadn't quite gone the way he had planned. “And you don't have to pay, right?”

Oliver laughed. Different than normal. This was more shock than deviousness. “Son, we don't pay now. No, you give us half what you get. And we're the muscle, see? Anyone doesn't pay...” Chase pounded his hands together again.

And for a moment, the idea seemed alright to Lesstin. “And you'd keep them from...” He couldn't say it. His big mouth had done enough work for the day. But Oliver understood. And his eyes glimmered, horrible as ever.

“We'd be in business,” he said. “I'm not saying we'll stick our neck out for you. Run to Lady Haden if you want. But you can sit with us at lunch.”

Oliver had thought hard about this. He sat with the nerds at lunch, and it only made things worse. If he could sit by Chase, that alone would save him most of his trouble.

“All right,” Lesstin agreed. Once again he wondered what he had done to earn their sudden friendship.

“Of course 'all right,' runt. Hey Chase, he thinks we're asking.”

“For a smarty,” Chase said, slapping Lesstin on the back of the head, “you sure are stupid.”

“But we aint doing this to just help a poor soul, profit aside.” Oliver picked at his teeth with a piece of paper. “See, Benny Gads made this bet with me. Said, no one would walk across the old track, to the other side. Fifty bucks even. Wave to Benny, Lesstin.” Oliver pointed to a figure on the far side of the cliff. Benny's orange hair marked him even at a distance.

“See, we figure, everyone knows you're a chicken-shit.” Chase guided Lesstin up the gravel hill toward the old rails. “So this helps.”

Lesstin's knees weren't quite shaking. He couldn't stop looking at how the rails ran out over the air, mounting the pylons. They were narrower than his wrist. Occasional wooden boards spanned the bridge, but over the seemingly endless gap between his side and Benny's, there were stretches with only the iron, and a rail at his side.

“So, you walk across,” Oliver said. “And we're in business.”

“What if I don't?” Lesstin thought he knew the answer.

Oliver's brow dropped, and his mouth twisted. This was the look Lesstin dreaded, the angry, and delighted grin of evil itself. “It's funny Chase. He thinking we're asking again.”

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 6 3/9/14

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Soon Maria was going to pay. She thought she could take everything from Lesstin. She had led him on for years, making him think she loved him. He had been happy, while she had been plotting. Scheming with other men on how to steal the money he earned, so she could live in luxury, with anyone other than him.

Entering the house had been easy. Maria hadn't bothered to change the locks, so Lesstin had simply let himself into what had been their winter home. Not that they had spent much time in it. After the long hot week when they had been visiting and she had fallen in love with the city, they had hired a realtor and bought the house that fall, only spending a few tired days in it before going home.

Walking the dark hallways brought up no memories or regret. This was a place he had no attachment to. But, in the living room, with its broad bay window and high open ceiling, there sat the couch they had spent days and weeks choosing. With its gold stained oak frame, and extra deep back, perfect for napping or sitting. Running his hand over the ribbed cloth filled his head with hot anger.

Oh yes, she would learn that nothing comes free. And for what she took from him, he would take the same from her.

Lesstin fingered the chrome plated pistol dangling in a leather holster inside his jacket. Hard and cold despite being tucked against his warm body. A sinister drain, it sapped energy from everything around it. Hopefully he wouldn't have to use it. And once he was done, he could cast it away.

He wouldn't hurt her. No, even though the scheming bitch deserved it. But what if he was with her? What if they walked in together? He imagined the laughing, happy and smiling, holding hands, talking about dinner, planning children, all the things they had taken from him, that they had lied to him about. He would pay if he dared show his face in the house paid for with Lesstin's money.

Oh yes.

Lesstin shook his head to clear the anger. It had become a madness, driving him onward in directions he didn't always understand. But he always realized what he was aiming for. Fairness. Equality. It wasn't about the money, he didn't need it, could live off the land if he needed to. But she had stolen the money and ruined the company on her way out. This wasn't revenge. He kept reminding himself, it wasn't about making her pay. Not in that way. He just wanted...

He never finished the thought, because a key clicking in the front door announced someone's return.
One question remained. Would she be alone? Or had she brought some new conquest? A toy to be used, then tossed aside when she grew bored.

Lesstin ducked into a bedroom, furnished with a bed and dresser he had meant for their children. Night's shadow cloaked him; she would not be able to see him from the doorway. He could hear her shedding her winter's skin. The shuffling of coat gloves, clicking heels on tile, and the heavy thud of the oversized purses she loved so much. Just one set of each sound, at the heavy metered pace of the tired or patient.

A pause, too long, ate away Lesstin's own patience. Was that a weary sigh? The first tones of a woman he still wanted to love? Or just-

“You may as well come out,” she said. Her voice sounded harder than he remembered. He didn't move. How had she known?

Another pause. “Howard?” She sounded uncertain, maybe a little afraid. Blood pounded in Lesstin's ears at hearing that name from Maria's mouth. HP. Howard. The instigator of betrayal. He would be dealt with in his own time. Justice came before pleasure.

“This isn't funny.” Strained, trying to control her emotions. This was the tone she had used with Lesstin after an argument. Footsteps away, toward that old door to the cold, lonely stone basement. Feet on tile made a return. Still he did not move. Sweat made his undershirt cling between his shoulder blades. This had been the plan, confront her, announce the return of reason and claim what he was owed. His feet were glued to the floor. Staying in the dark felt much better, if still unjust.

A creak from the first step. She would search the rooms and find him shortly. “Who is there?” Definite fear in her voice now. “I'm calling the police.”

“Don't,” Lesstin said. He sprang from the room, perhaps faster than he should have. Maria screamed, her eyes white-wide from the shock. “I'm not...don't call the cops.”

Maria placed a hand on her chest, and stepped down from him. “Lesstin.” Her words came out between shaking breaths. “You scared me half to death. How did you get in...oh right. You have a key. God. I thought you were Howard.”

“I heard,” Lesstin said. Were his cheeks flushed? Would she be able to see the anger in his eyes?

Maria backed down the steps, dodging the small puddle on the landing. “My socks are soaked,” she said. “I'm getting some water. Do you want some?”

“No, thank you.” This wasn't how she was supposed to react. Fear, maybe. Anger, certainly. Anger was fair, reciprocal. But not...what was this? Calm acceptance?

She vanished into the kitchen. “Howard keeps coming by, even after I told him to stay away. He was never a threat to you, you know that, right? Just...a lens, to see what we had become.” Did she sound suspicious? Concerned? A knowing accent tinted her words. Maybe it was the acoustics. They had loved the house's oddly shaped walls and ceilings, how they bent sound, isolating or enclosing.

But to Lesstin, it seemed she must have known why he had come. She knew her crime, and instead of pleading, crying or begging, she turned away from him, she offered him water. It was his water! If he wanted it, he would take it. And she dared, mocking him with that name, as if saying it more made the crimes less.

He could barely hear her words through the blood pounding in his ears. “Oh.” What else to say? She had already discarded his replacement. The gun felt heavy against his chest, a weight that would be lighter in his hand.

“Why are you here?” She returned from the kitchen. Lesstin still stood at the top of the stairs. When she looked up to him, her face went as white as his was blood-red. “Lesstin, why are you holding a gun?”

Had he drawn it? Or had it moved there on its own will? No matter. “They told me not to come here, when I said I wanted to.”

“Who did?” Her voice trembled. Fear at last. Somehow it did not quite offer the pleasure he had expected.

Lesstin waved his free hand. “The doctors! They kept shoving pills down my throat, telling me not to leave, not to do this and that. Not to live! They wanted it this way. Wanted win.”

“Lesstin, don't come any closer.” To his surprise, he had descended the stairs. Which worked well enough. Talking felt less important, less real. The gun, the closeness, Maria, these were real things. These were justice.

“I just want...what you took. The money, the business. I want it to be Fair.” Fair. Harsh to say, but fairness had an oddly unfair manner to it. If one lose, all lose. If one wins, all win. “When one person has, and one has not, it isn't fair.”

“Lesstin, you...gave me the money.” She backed into the kitchen. A clanging sound of something tumbling, and a heavy thud. Her voice was shaking as much as Lesstin's free hand. “Don't come in here Lesstin. I am calling the cops. If you come in here, God help me, I don't know what I'm going to do. Lesstin...”

Of course there was no money. She had spent it on her toys. But it could be made right. “Justice.” He held it in his hand. Nothing else needed to be said.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 5 2/21/14

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A tiny goose honk of a horn startled Lesstin out of his day dream. Not that he'd really been dreaming. He did put his car into first and accelerate through the light even as it was turning yellow. He swore under his breath. He had failed all the people behind him at the light.

Other cars ran their merry dance around him, passing, turning, and merging badly. They didn't matter; he didn't see them. He had no real place to be. It wasn't even 10 yet, and he only had a handful of things to do. But it was great to get out of the house and enjoy the warm spring day.

An old favorite came on the radio. He turned it up, opened the windows, and beat out the rhythm on the door panel. Maria had always loved this song. He swore again and checked the clock. Almost an hour had gone by without notice. He went through the list again, just to keep busy.

“Hunting license.” He wouldn't need it for a few weeks yet, but better to be prepared. “Make reservations.” Either a lodge or just a good parking spot. He had slept in the back of a truck many times. Not the most comfortable, but it served. “And get my guns back from Adrian's boyfriend. I don't think he even used them last year.” He never should have let Maria talk him into loaning the boy those guns.

He slammed his hands on the steering wheel. “No, no, no!” The list wasn't working. “Later,” he said. Maybe if he acknowledged what he didn't want to think about, it would leave him alone. For a while. Just enjoy the weather. Feel the sun, hear the birds chirping, see the trees budding. “It's a wonderful day.”

He drove past a small restaurant, where he and Maria had celebrated their last anniversary. Maria. Always Maria. The memory wouldn't leave so easily this time. He approached the closet. Just storage in the guest room. It was mostly filled with old clothes, books from college, and Christmas ornaments. In the back, tucked behind old coats and shirts, was a box. It might have been opened days before. Or years.

Work. Yes, work would keep him busy. He'd just stop in to check. Bryant wouldn't be glad to see him, not on Lesstin's day off. But he's risk it. They might even need him for something.

“In and out,” he told himself. He spent just under an hour at work, checking in the with phone bank, meeting briefly with Bryant and with Jessica. She had actually needed his permission for a few purchases, which he was glad to give. Bryant didn't want the owner peeking over his shoulder all the time, but didn't complain.

The entire business was Lesstin's baby, and he had trouble not at least stopping by every day. It would have been easier not to see his wife for a week. His wife. A sour barb jabbed him in the chest. Everything was Maria. How had he never noticed that before?

The office had taken time, but it wasn't something he could linger on. He needed someone to talk to. Not about Maria, just It was almost noon. He hadn't felt hungry all day, but he called Tony, arranged to meet him for a meal.

The small box flashed through his mind. Rose petals were painted on thick stock sides. It smelled of perfume, and was full of hand-written letters on lined yellow paper. Every one was addressed to Maria, in a careful elegant script.

He pushed the thought away again. Letters.

He snapped to attention, parked at the restaurant. How long had he been sitting there? He hurried inside. It hadn't been work, but people that kept him busy. This would work. It had to.

Tony talked about his newborn boy, and how proud they were. This was the first time he had been out in weeks. Lesstin made appropriate reactions, saying how wonderful life was, how interesting new children could be. He even smiled at the pictures. He hadn't smiled in days.

They may as well have gone to a park and just talked. Had he eaten? Had Tony?

Maria, it's only been three days, but it feels like three years. I miss your ebony lilac-scented hair.

Once in his car, he rolled the window down. The wind blew in, cool and calm. He smelled flowers on it. Maybe there were indeed lilacs. He screamed, angry. It was unfair! How stupid of him, of Maria. He just wanted some peace, for a day, for a few hours. Business and friends and success meant nothing. He slammed his hands against the drivers wheel until his palms hurt, then slumped against the air bag. He wasn't prone to crying, but didn't try to stop himself as tears flushed the sadness out of his eyes, if not his heart.

If time passed, Lesstin didn't notice it. He couldn't stop thinking of the letters. He didn't remember much from his time in Iraq. Probably best that he forgot what happened during the Gulf War. And maybe he could have sent the letters. They sounded like him, sometimes, if he were trying to be sappy or trying to flirt with his wife. But the handwriting. That was not his.

I don't know how to explain it. Every time I touch your hand, your shoulder, it's like someone is tickling me with happiness. I can barely stop myself from laughing with joy.

He hadn't needed to read more, but he skimmed onward, feeling more ill as he went. At first he had hoped these were the letters of some lost love, the “one that got away” from high school or college. He could accept that. But the man, who only signed his name as HP, oh, cruelest of cruelties, he dated the letters. The first few came in a month or two apart. But the last ones, these were mere weeks. Sometimes days. The most recent was from last week. And he answered questions, so there was no doubt that she answered back.

A metal-on-glass tapping turned his attention to the valet the passenger side window. “Are you alright sir?” he asked.

Quickly, Lesstin pretended to drop his keys, as if he were digging for them under the wheel.

The kid didn't know anything about loss, about pain. But it was time to go. “Just...couldn't get to these,” he said weakly, jiggling his keys as he easily picked them up. “Thanks.” He didn't want for the valet to answer, just turned the car on and backed out.

He hadn't drank in years. Not since just after college, when Maria told him to drop it or she'd drop him. Well. This seemed the moment to try it again. Three drinks in had him feeling it. This was his fault. He knew that. Sure, the business was successful, but even those short daily drop ins were taking time from the marriage.

He'd heard people say things like “Love is work.” For him, love was bliss, a thing that existed and could not be stopped anymore than a hundred car train without brakes. It turned out, love was not all Maria needed.

Another drink.

Marriage was a full time job. And he had botched it. Forget the work, friends, life at all. He hadn't done what he needed to.

Another drink.

He knew about those stages of grieving. Denial, anger, that stuff. Which one was “getting piss drunk” and would it get easier?

His fault or not, the part that really hurt, was that Maria hadn't bothered to come to Lesstin with her problems. Maybe this HP had started it all, but Maria, instead of dropping it, instead of talking to Lesstin about their relationship, had gone to another man. It wasn't just betrayal, it was lack of trust. And what had he done to deserve that?

Another drink.

Well. He wouldn't hide his discovery. The only option was to ask her. If he didn't, then he deserved not to be trusted. Perhaps they could work things out. The business basically ran itself. He could take her out, spend more time at home, or with her. Yes.

Like the entire day, the trip was a blur. He didn't remember getting into the car, or driving, or anything. Maria dominated his thoughts, until the headlights closed in, too close and too large. Had he missed a red light? Or just had one too many?

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Monday, February 17, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 4 2/17/14

(This is late from the week of 2/10/14)

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 Maria leaned in close to Lesstin, letting him hold some of her weight on his arm. “It's just not the best neighborhood, you know?” She kept her voice low, and aimed toward his ear, as if afraid that saying so would summon her fears.

A cool breeze whirled down the dark city streets, tugging at leaves edged in yellow and orange, pulling the tails of Lesstin's coat. Maria wrapped her arms around her body to hold in a shiver. Even in the dim glow spilling from the street corner lights, he could see the goose bumps on her arms.

“Here,” he said, wrapping his suit coat around her shoulders. “If I'd known it was going to be this chilly, I might have brought a coat.” He left it unsaid that he had brought a coat, but she had only worn a thin dress. It put her athletic body on good display, but she had been shivering even when they left the house.

“Or you could have parked closer,” Maria threw back. After fifteen years of marriage, she knew what he meant.

Down to three layers, if he counted the vest, now it was Lesstin's turn to feel the cold. Well. Better than hearing about it for the whole ride home.

“There's no point in paying for parking when there are open streets nearby.”

She made an annoyed sound from the back of her throat. “You consider this nearby? We're ten blocks off of First, and more than that from the restaurant.”

This wasn't a new argument. “I offered to come pick you up,” he said. “You didn't want to wait in the restaurant.”

“It's in the other direction,” she said. But the tone of her voice said she wasn't interested in the argument.
Lesstin changed the subject to their meal, which they both agreed was nice, but overpriced.

“I think someone is following us,” Maria threw into the conversation. It took Lesstin several seconds to piece together what she could have meant.

“No,” he said, patting her hand in a way he had seen actors do when calming a distressed damsel. “There is no sidewalk on the other side of the street. Where else do you want people to walk?” Lesstin refused to look over his shoulder to check. He didn't want to encourage her foolishness. It had nothing to do with not wanting to look bad to whomever was actually behind them. Nothing at all.

“Is there some other way we can go?” She asked. The nervous notes in her voice gave her a sharp rasp. Lesstin suspected the people behind them could her her quite easily, and wondered if they were whispering to themselves about the paranoid woman in the red shoes.

“To our car?” Lesstin asked, unsure of her intent. “Do you want a detour that adds ten minutes to our three minute walk?”

She didn't have a good answer to that, but Lesstin could tell she was nervous. A few months together and he could tell when she wanted to talk. A few years, and he could tell when she just wanted someone to lean on. After nearly three decades, he could probably have quoted what she was thinking just from the tremble in her shoulders, or the curl a the edge of her mouth.

“Here,” he said, carefully moving to drop his hat on the ground. “Oops.” He spoke louder than needed, and stopped, looking backward as he moved to recover the hat.

A quick glance, and a smile backwards spotted a pair of dark garbed men, who slowed awkwardly, seeming more startled than they should have been. The taller of the two frowned, and Lesstin would have sworn the man's lips formed a word he wouldn't have said where his wife could hear it.

As they rounded the corner, Lesstin affixed the hat to his head. “You might be right,” he admitted. “But nothing to worry about. Our car is just ahead. If we walk a little faster, I doubt they'll catch us.”

“What will,” Maria started, then lowered her voice, as if they hadn't already heard her. “What will you do if they...try something.”

He patted her hand again. Did that actually help? He certainly felt better, having something to do. Feeling a little manly, he affected a British accent. “Stiff upper lip, and all that.” But he wasn't entirely sure. He knew he wouldn't give them his wallet, or anything of the sort. “I've been in worse trouble. I'm sure I can brush off a couple of hooligans.”

Another two blocks and they turned onto a side road, where the bright lights of first street no longer reached their fingers of light and glamour. He wasn't sure which car was theirs. This time of night, the entire side street was filled. But they were most of the block up, under a large willow tree. He thought.

They hadn't passed more than two of the tall apartment buildings that lined both sides of the street, when a bundle of young men stepped out from a particularly dark alley. Maybe they were armed; Lesstin couldn't tell in the moonless dark.

“Wallets and phones,” one of them said, a rough demand. He waved his hand at them. He gestured to the clutch gripped in Maria's left hand. “And your purse.” In the alley, movement said these three weren't alone.
He heard the men behind him move up. They seemed to know these new bandits. Maybe the lot were working together.

“You'll get nothing from us,” Lesstin said, feeling brave and sure of himself.

For a moment, confusion flashed over the tallest stranger's face. As if that response had never occurred to him. Lesstin smiled, now quite sure of his victory. Oh yes, these men would buckle.

Even as he watched, the confusion vanished, and the man's eyes widened in rage. His lips twisted into an animal snarl. He reached into his pocket, digging for something that bulged oddly in the half light. But his feet never moved.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

End Lesstin Kering X3 2/15/14

(note: see the Master Document for explanation of the End Lesstin Kering project.)
(This story was scrapped. As follows were my notes and writing at the point of being scrapped.)
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[Try to rephrase some of this. There's a bit of word-swampiness in the middle.]

The mild chatter of conversations flavored the air, isolating each table in its own pool of ignorance. No one was watching. And there was nothing to see. Like sheep, they were blissfully ignorant in their herd.
“Of course,” Lesstin Kering added, “bombs don't tick anymore.”
The man sitting across the table from Lesstin nodded sagely. He was old enough to have heard such things. “Wasn't that in a movie?” The man said. He sipped bland coffee from a waxed paper cup, both notable only for their ubiquity at these types of public support groups. “They said bombs vibrate now. The movie where they made soap, or something, wasn't it?”
“Why not?” Lesstin said. He didn't know what movie the man was talking about, and had never been close enough to a vibrating bomb to say much about it. “But it makes sense. Who would attach an explosive to a mechanical clock.”
“I”m not sure what to follow that with,” the man said. “My name is Howard Price, by the way.” He held a hand out to Lesstin.
Lesstin smiled, shook the man's hand. “Lesstin Kering.” Lesstin watched for recognition in the man's face, but saw nothing but polite amusement. Good. Because Lesstin recognized Howard Price. “Just go with the basics, if you can't think of anything. Where you're from, family, so on.”
“Of course.” Howard sounded happy to be relieved of responsibility or thought. Afterall, they were both new to the group, and had shared the same information a dozen times already, with different strangers. The real trick was working back to those topics, but Lesstin had simply handed it to him.
“I lived in Atlanta most of my life, other than in college.”
Lesstin noted the man's words, checking marks on a list in his mind. Howard Price. Check. Lived in Atlanta. Check. “What did you go to college for?”
The man smirked, “Because I had nothing else to do.” He laughed, short and awkward.
Lesstin smiled at the tired joke, but couldn't bring himself to laugh. Normally he might have for curtosey's sake, but not today.
“Actually,” Howard continued, “I wasted a lot of time at a few colleges in Minnesota, before finally managing a Communications degree.”
Went to college in Minnesota. Check. “Brrr!” Lesstin said. “Bit cold for an Atlanta man up there?”
“Indeed,” Howard's grin was as wide as he could manage. A happy man, enjoying the conversation. Meeting people, getting help. Lesstin had no idea what the group was supposed to help people with. He was only there to see one person, whom he was quickly coming to believe he had found.
“After I graduated,” Howard said, “some of my teachers had wanted me to stay, do graduate work, but I couldn't stand the cold, so I came back to Atlanta.”

[[[Bleh. Might reuse some parts later. I don't think he's quite crazy enough, here, to bomb an entire community support group. He's enraged, jealous, etc, but not a mad bomber.]]]

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

End Lesstin Kering List

Primary 52

One End Lesstin Kering story, every week of 2014, starting 1/17/2014

Abandoned X

Stories abandoned for one reason or another

End Lesstin Kering 3 2/2/14

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The lighter sparked behind Lesstin's cupped hand, once, twice, three times before a hesitant light flickered. The merciless wind blew it out before any warmth reached Lesstin's thumb. A gust of air blew up his coat, tugging at shirt tails and jean bottoms, but somehow the cold felt trivial when confronted with the unlit white stick dangling from Lesstin's mouth.

He tried the lighter again, then shook it by his ear to hear the unlit fluid inside it sloshing lazily. The crosswalk clicked to go, and he walked off the curb. He grunted and flicked the lighter once more, which conjured a flame that lit the paper, producing a pleasant shushing sound he had been waiting for.

By that same inevitable fate that rules all happy winter days, the moment it lit, Lesstin stepped off the curb and into a puddle of slush that soaked his ankle above the sock line. Cold water and crushed ice flowed into his left shoe. Cold weather veteran that he was, Lesstin soldiered through the rest of the intersection, shaking out as much winter as he could. He scraped the ice layer from the rim of his wool socks, which seemed to have repelled the worst of it. Good enough.

Puffing happily on his cigarette, only a block later the lighter had been forgotten. Five blocks after that, so was the puddle. But after the cigarette faded, the icy breeze curled around his chest, so he reached for the lighter and pack, the third time on a single march to the office. Layered inside a closets worth of cold-weather gear, he still felt the chill. But the ligher offered a different sort of solution.

After getting to work, it would be at least an hour before he could find a break to smoke. Best get it done now. These three had been free cigarettes anyway, leftovers in a pack he hadn't finished the night before. He had another eight blocks, and accompanying stop lights. Might be ten minutes before he marched into the lobby. Plenty of time.

Once in the office, the morning flowed onward. Emails were read, mostly things out of his hands, but a few he would have to deal with later in the day.

The clock was flirting with ten o’clock by the time Lesstin managed to escape the monotonous bog of email tag and touching base. His head wasn't quite pounding, thanks solely to abundant coffee. As he got out of his seat, he could already smell the cigarette, taste it in his mouth, even twenty floors up.

As usual, the elevator took forever to reach the ground floor. Three minutes had been wasted by the time Lesstin pushed out through the service door out onto the back dock. He recognized two people there who worked on his floor. A man he thought was named Nick, and a woman he had greeted at the coffee pot, but never been introduced to.

“I guess bothers me a little,” the man said. He had his lighter out and offered the service to Lesstin.

“Thanks,” Lesstin mumbled through pursed lips. “Nick?” He asked, carefully.

“Nate,” the man corrected.”

“It makes me feel ill sometimes,” the woman added.

“What's that?” Lesstin asked. He shivered in the cold and half wished he had brought a cup of hot coffee with him.

“Working on the anti-smoking campaign,” Nate said. “The stats aren't fun to read, every day.”

“No doubt.” Lesstin had heard it all before. “I guess, when you've been smoking as long as I have, it doesn't really phase you anymore.”

“Leetha's job might even get to you old hats,” Nate said. He gestured to the woman.

“I'm in the media production group,” she admitted. “The pictures that come through are pretty terrible. Worse than those abortion ads, and I'm not involved in those. But here I am, outside in the cold.” She raised her hands helplessly, then ashed carefully so the wind carried the coals away from them.

“Thinking about quitting then?” Lesstin asked. He'd tried that a long time ago, when he was younger and more energetic. Lesstin had long since accepted his smoking, understood that if he didn't quit, it would kill him. Maybe he would. Eventually.

“Isn't everyone?” Leetha asked, shivering as the wind whipped through the narrow delivery alley. Lesstin shrugged his uncertainty. “That wind is so cold,” she said through chattering teeth. She coughed, the short deep chested cough of annoyed lungs. “The dry air hates me. Staying out of the wind alone might be worth quitting.”

“Ah,” Nate added, smiling cleverly as young men do when they talk to a pretty woman. “But then you'd miss all this clever talk.”

“That would be terrible,” she said, a little playfully. Lesstin suspected these two weren't out here on break at the same time by mere chance.

“And then you'd spend all day watching the water cooler, waiting for me to get up, so we could happen to be there at the same time.” Nate smiled wider as he spoke. Leetha laughed encouragingly. “And I'd be eying the bathroom door, so we could bump into one another. We'd never get any work done, and we'd always manage to pass one another by, because of bad communication.”

“Ooh,” she said sadly, as if that were much of an answer. “Guess I'll keep at it then. Like you said, I'd hate to skip these thrilling conversations.”

They chatted a little more, mostly about the weather, and which coworkers they liked the least. Lesstin had experience in these situations, and after three or four minutes, the others were ready to go inside, but Lesstin's headache still raged, so he thought to have a second. He still had a small nub, and promised to finish it before heading right up.

The pair vanished into the building, leaving him alone on the dock, at least for a moment. He quickly drew off the last of his free cigarettes, and pulled another from a new pack. Before Lesstin lit his cigarette, the breeze plowed through the alley again. He hacked, a grating cough that caught in his chest like a burning fire. A cough that had nothing to do with the wind, and more to do with the lighter in his hand.

But as he thumbed the flint, a trio of men exited the building. One of them was a man named Calvin, who worked in printing, down one floor.

“Balls its cold out here,” Calvin said as a shiver shook his coat. The other two made similar comments, likely hoping to join into a conversation with Lesstin. But he barely heard them.

His cigarette lit and burned, he drew in, and exhaled. “I guess it doesn't bother me at all,” he said, not at all talking about the wind. All three men raised shocked eyebrows, at such a thing to say.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

End Lesstin Kerring 2 1/26/14

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Lesstin Kering leaned against the massive, frozen, trunk of an old sleeping tree. It could be an oak or an elm, or something else entirely. He wasn't much of a tree watcher.

Through his heavy winter coat, the tree didn't feel frozen, but it had to be. With snow crunching underfoot and blowing lightly on the wind, (not falling, no, it was too cold for snow to fall,) everything had frozen, even soda, none of that slushy awkward phase where he used to try and squeeze some fluid out. No. Cans frozen and burst, brown spray across the inside of the windshield, a sticky mess in the summer that never left the car.

Lesstin shivered, slapped his hands against his thighs, pleased at the sting and warmth he felt there, then tucked his gloved fingers under his armpits.

Lesstin considered a name for the tree, even if just for the duration of their short relationship, and eventually settled on Mervin. It wasn't a name he liked, just the first one that came to mind. He had an uncle named Mervin, a huge bear of a man, or had seemed so to Lesstin at age 10. The tree, and his uncle, shared the quality of being too large to reach his arms around. That was enough of a link for Lesstin.

“Well Mervin,” Lesstin said, wondering if he expected a response. He had no follow-up to those two stray words, caught, like driftwood on the bobbing sea of wind that almost seemed to speak its own white, howling, words.

“Whooooooooooo,” it whistled, a sound that had always frightened Lesstin in his youth, as those Oklahoma storms pounded the wind against his tiny room's windowpanes, the ragged, shuddering, breaths of an angry giant.

But he found it comforting right now, as if the wind, Mervin, and he, were all conspirators, working together, planning, surviving, or whatever else a tree and the wind might do with a human. He couldn't think of many games they could play, at least, not the sort he had played with his friends in the past.

“Not a worry,” Lesstin mumbled, “with enough time, we'll invent something. A game for all of us.” He coughed a dry choking crack that barely fit through his throat. He knew there would never be time for games with the wind, but he didn't want to discourage his new friends.

Mervin, when just a mere seed, had chosen to grow near a cliff face. Not too close to it, so that it wouldn't block sunlight or rain water when Mervin grew older, but close enough that now, grown to large size, the wind blew off the cliff face, slowing and walking around Mervin, and anyone who happened to hide nearby.

Which was why Lesstin had chosen to hide there. Just for a little while. While his hands and toes warmed up. He had hoped to find some fire wood, and found enough fallen branches to burn, but after a few minute of trying to tear wood away from the ground's icy claws, he abandoned the attempt. Only after did he consider that frozen wood probably wouldn't burn. Also, he didn't have a lighter. But the effort had forced some warmth into his hands and arms. He could feel the difference, and that at least, was a good sign.

Standing out of the wind was a relief too strong for the words that dashed through Lesstin's groggy mind. The cold didn't bother him, not really, not in a way that mattered. It was an old lover, tracing her soft fingers over his cheeks, down his throat, and slowly sapping his life. But the process was not painful. The wind, however, was aggressive, freezing the snow into a hard layer that caught and tore, shattering under a man's weight, but cutting like a blade as delicate nylon snow pants passed it. The wind would freeze skin just as happily, given the chance.

“But Mervin won't let that happen, will you?” Lesstin mumbled. He idly wondered if talking to a tree was a bad sign. He understood the tree was alive, it was a plant after all, but also that it was not intelligent, or even an animal. It could not respond, and, as far as Lesstin knew, had no ability to understand that he was even present. Talking to it might have been a sign of delirium. Was he going mad, out in the cold? Maybe. But, being aware of the change, that gave him some hope. He had wondered how it would happen, how the freeze would infiltrate.

He had heard, or maybe it was just rumor, commonly known, with no real moment of being told, that freezing and drowning were the two most peaceful ways to die. But to him, it seemed that both would have a fair bit of panic to them, at least a handful of seconds where the subject would understand what was going to happen, and have time to think about it.

Lesstin, out in the cold, wondering if one or the other would happen to him (though drowning seemed difficult, even with all the snow around,) thought a nice hard, fatal blow to the back of the head might be nice. Just walk down a street, minding one's own business, and WHACK, some thug with a bat takes a person out. No suspense to that, no worry or moment of fear.

Well. No opportunity to put things in order either. If a person had to die, and rumor had it, one of those same rumors as before, no source, but solid in its own way, everyone died eventually.

But given death, oncoming, a train without enough room to stop, the slow degeneration of body and/or mind, given that, he would rather have things the way he wanted them. His things sold and given away. His goodbyes said. Tears shed and pets handed off.

And it seemed to him, that neither freezing nor drowning, nor even the oh-so-possible head-crushing, offered that chance. Unless, of course, a person had put all of his things in order, put on some winter clothing, driven out into the wilderness until his car ran out of gas, and then set out into the quiet, settling dusk of a gorgeous winter. Of course, putting things in order for unexpected head-crushing sort of defeated the purpose.

In hindsight, the mad trip into the snow, prepared or not, seemed a little...well, mad.

“More mad thank talking to a tree?” He asked himself. Hard to pin it on the cold, given this new insight. He settled against Mervin, feeling the cold creeping into his legs, the packed snow reaching icy fingers toward his bones, deep within their beds of muscle. He didn't remember sitting, or leaning back against his friend. But it felt right. Comfortable, certainly, compared to the biting wind and prying eyes of the icy wilderness.

“It could be worse,” he said, coughing a series of ragged blows that shook his body. Red spray covered the snow, the beginnings of something reminiscent of Pollock, had his perennial cough turned out to be terminal cancer and he then decided to ply his work with a rather morbid medium.

“That was you,” Mervin whispered. His voice sounded like the wind, and smelled crisp, like new linen. Lesstin shivered, not from the cold, that had long since stopped, but out of fear, one last bolt of worry.

“I guess it was,” Lesstin meant to say. The words slipped between lips half frozen shut. Mervin wrapped warm arms around Lesstin's shoulders. He mumbled incoherent thanks as velvet heat flowed into his hands and legs, shared from his friend. Strength flooded his limbs. His hands drifted into the air, invisible and free, while his legs twitched, eager for what was to come. He felt like he could have run a marathon again. He smiled, glad at the thought. Why had he ever stopped doing that? Was it before, or after the visit to the doctor? He could not remember. Nor could he keep his eyes open any longer. Letting them drop closed was the happiest thing he could remember. Sleep would come soon, the pleasant slumber of a man too long denied rest. Like a glass of water after a long run.

He smiled, then coughed again, and frowned as cold red splashed over his lips. He swallowed, wiped a snow-covered glove across his mouth, and said “Mervin, I think we should build a snowman.”

“Whooooooooooo,” the wind said.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

End Lesstin Kering X1 1/23/14

(note: see the Master Document for explanation of the End Lesstin Kering project.)
(Comments: The X1 designation means this story was scrapped. See this page for explanation. After this point is the exact document when I scrapped it.)

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[[[Bleh. Pacing. Leave some suspense, then the injury report.]]]

Lesstin's eyes flickered open to a world of cold white light. His breath had melted a small bowl in front of his face that now glimmered with icy edges that clung to his hair and eyelashes.

His left eye was frozen shut, and he had to blink it several times to clear enough ice to see out of it. A ragged shiver shook his body, announcing pain in his chest. Not a good sign. Lesstin pushed himself up on his left arm, which sank elbow deep into the soft snow, with a soft wrinkling-paper crunching sound.

But Lesstin couldn't get up, couldn't pull himself away. His mind swam, spinning through the possibilities. Tight tugging clenched his chest, and panic thrilled his mind. Was something broken in there? Even without the cold, broken ribs could be dangerous, and it was over an hour back to the campsite.

His legs didn't hurt. Not even a little bit. And it took far too long for colors to register that the dark splots on the snow were blood, from his head or back, he couldn't tell. But it didn't seem to be spreading, so the wound must have frozen shut, like his eye had. And that wasn't a good sign either.

He was aware that his thoughts were slow. Scrambled. He forced his mind to focus through injury, and was horrified as he realized his lower torso was pinned beneath the split tunk of a tree that had so recently held his tree stand. Frozen sap twinkled on the half of the tree that still stood, having frozen and burst in the intense cold.

He remembered someone warning him of the cold, but had little between then and now. A woman's voice warm and distant. Lovely. Dismissed.

Wind pulled itself over his body, a taunting, cruel breeze that mocked his immobility with its swirling fingers that dug into the frosted snow layer, and burned their way through his coat and overalls. He felt the cold nip at his skin, and smiled, happy for that plain sign of life.

Memory began assembling itself, like watching a movie in his mind that he almost remembered. One of those words or places that lingered on the tip of his tongue, waiting for the proper impulse to make it whole.

[He came out here to get away from his friends and family, but stayed too long, and has run out of food. He dies, because he was out here hunting when he knew it was too cold, because if he does not, he will have gone without a meal for several days in a row.]

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End Lesstin Kering Notes: Abandoned Stories and more

I'd been thinking about how to do the ELK notes, which are things I have to say about the project, aside from the pieces themselves. So, I'm going to run an (as needed) series of End Lesstin Kering Notes. I'll link those in the ELK Master document at the bottom.

This one is on abandoned or scrapped stories.

I've written five ELK pieces so far (only posted one, and part of one, but making a buffer for myself,) and I'm not surprised to say that I also have created two parts of a story that I abandoned for one reason or another.

Normally, in non ELK writing, I would find a way to either repair the flaws in these pieces, or would cut them up for use elsewhere. But for this project, I'm just going to post them at the point I decided they were terminal, for everyone to see what I think is an unworkable story. Some stories will be totally non functional, either in the way I wrote them, or because of some flaw in the story itself. (Decide for yourself why it might be unworkable.) I'll even include my in-work notes, which are usually designated in-text with a series of brackets [note] [[note]] [[[note]]] the number of which have various meanings.

And! A new rule, which will be added to the master document.
Rule) Abandoned stories do not count toward the 52 weeks of ELK writing.

However, they will all be posted, in the order I wrote them, though they will be noted with an X after the story number.
Example: End Lesstin Kering X1 as opposed to End Lesstin Kering 5)

Also worth mentioning, though I am keeping the ELK stories short, I do review and edit them. Abandoned stories are probably unedited, and much rougher than the more polished ELK main series.

Friday, January 17, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 1/17/14

(note: see the Master Document for explanation of the End Lesstin Kering project.)

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Lesstin Oswald Kering stamped the mud off his shoes. He took a deep breath, felt the autumn air blow into his lungs. It smelled like returning to school and Halloween, like treats and costumes, and smiling children knocking on doors. But Lesstin, Les, barely noticed the smell; to him, it felt like a lonely valentines day, bitter and cold and all too aware of its emptiness.

He pushed his way through the loose screen door, and set his bundle on the old wooden bench, sentinel of the entry, and one of the few things left in his house. Almost everything else had been sold or given away, but like Les, no one wanted that old bench. He didn't bother removing his coat or hat, or even his gloves, all of which were older than the bench, and too worthless to sell or donate. But, sitting on that old, trusty bench, he took his shoes off, even now. Today, he had all the time in the world, and determination was no reason to be sloppy.

Over the years, he had learned a thing or two about haste. The type of lesson that repeats itself until a person forms habits that define who and what they are. In such a way, he had discovered, that even when he thought it wouldn't matter, just a quick run in for the wallet or keys, that if he left his shoes on, he, and only he, would inevitably step in the puddle left by his haste. There were few things in life he hated as much as wet socks. He suspected there was a larger lesson there, but couldn't quite pin it down.

Les walked, padded feet warmed by thinning wool socks. The floorboards were cool, but not cold, under his insulated feet. The night would be chilly, with the heat turned off, but he didn't want to risk any trouble, or waste any gas, on this house, empty and useless. After all, he wasn't sure how long it would be before someone else was here, and heating the place seemed unfortunate. Sad almost, in a way that tugged at Lesstin's heart, just so, pushing a tiny salty tear into the corner of his eye.

Idly, unsure of what to do next, he ran a hand over his head, still surprised to feel it shaved nearly bald. Hair always made a bigger mess than he expected. Dust could be wiped away, water was easy to mop up, but hair snagged, caught in things, and found ways into cracks, that always shocked and surprised him. Even in the cleanest house ever, with a dozen people to work and scrub, he felt sure he could have found hair under a bed, between two floor boards, next to the toilet, or any of a dozen places.

So the hair had to go. Cleaner. Easier. He'd left his eyebrows, after a test a few weeks ago had shown people's odd reactions to a man with no hair above his eyes. People raised their unshaven brows, watched him sideways, whispered, as if he couldn't see them. He hadn't even known those people. Though, he really felt like he didn't know anybody anymore, not here, not in this town. Only distant family in different cities. None were doing better than he had been, there was no one and nowhere he could go stay on a couch for a while. But it was nice to know they were out there. They sent him letters at Christmas, Easter, solstice. The usual. At least someone would come see the house, eventually.

In any event, he wanted eyebrows when his family saw him, assuming anyone came. How odd to think he had waited from then until now, just so he would have eyebrows, for one meeting that might not happen.

Lesstin went through the list in his head, making sure everything was in order. Closets had been emptied of clothing, mostly donated, where they would be accepted. So many closets of shirts, coats, pants, shoes. Even trivial things, wallets, who needs nine wallets? And ties, enough to fill a box that barely fit in his car. Wearing a tie, every day, it would have taken months to wear them all. Of course, he only ever wore two or three. The red one, the brown one, the blue one. No one wants to see a tie with pumpkins, or skulls, or guitars.

He smiled, laughed to himself, wondering at the odd things that distracted him. Ties. Wet socks. Hair. He took a deep breath, hesitating, waiting for that tense moment where determination became action. He let the breath out, and oddly, discovered he wanted coffee. To his surprise, he even felt a little hungry. Of course, there was no food. The fridge had been donated to a old coworker who couldn't remember Lesstin's name.

But right now, coffee, rich and dark, with a dash of cream, which he'd have to go without, sounded wonderful. The coffee maker was gone too, but he scrounged a small dented kettle and a single serving pack of pre-ground beans that somehow had escaped the harrowing of the cupboards. A lonely survivor. Just like Lesstin.

The old beans made a bitter drink, the last for the old house, with it's creaking, cold boards, and windows that neither heat nor cold. Should have replaced those years ago, but now, Les was glad he hadn't. Can't waste old windows on a house that had no use. It seemed fitting, for the scene.

He had made every effort not to waste. Not to make work for someone else. Power was off, gas was off, mail had been diverted to his aunt in New York. Not that anyone sent him mail. Even the magazines for plastics from china (laced with who knows what,) had stopped coming. Personal bills had been paid, there had been enough money left for that. At least, until they came for him again. And they would.

Certainly mistakes had been made. Some remembered, some forgotten. No matter. He couldn't fix them anymore.

So he continued the list. Letters had been sent on delay to everyone who would want to know. To remember. Messages after messages, letters to family and distant friends, to relatives, old loves, and to Maria. Or, at least, the last address he had for Maria. He didn't begrudge her a life away from him, but suspected their separation had been the beginning of his madness. Well. Maybe not so mad as foolishness.

After all, his entire success in business had come after their separation. But had he been trying to escape the memory? Or just prove to her that she had lost more than he had? It didn't seem to matter. Success had proven fleeting, and disaster had a way of lingering, like that smell of holidays and feeling of...nothing. Of nothing he could define. Just, of ending. Of this, of an empty house, and a man with no ties to the world. Of apologies sent, checks mailed to charities, the last of his money given away, the last of his tears, send to people who would value them.

Lesstin smiled, pleased with his thoroughness. He couldn't remember the entire list, and it was sealed in an envelope now. A record of all he had done. Perhaps too thorough, just this once. But he knew what it would say. Everything in its place, just so. Right angles, straight lines, and loose ends tied.

Lesstin walked on crinkling plastic, into the living room. Walls, floors, and ceiling, all were covered with 8mil plastic sheeting, taped and sealed. The room looked ready for painting, but the lightly-stained wall boards behind the plastic said paint was not in the plan. In fact, they were a major feature of the house. Not that he'd been able to sell it. But someone might, later, and he hated to ruin them. No waste, nothing destroyed that didn't need to be.

As he came to the end of the coffee, Lesstin's mind rolled. Was this what he wanted? Truly, this was how he wanted to end it? But he could see no other way out. If he waited, other people would get drawn into his messes; people he loved would pay for his mistakes. Still, he was glad he checked. Very thorough. Only a sane man would ask, and he felt better knowing he wasn't entirely mad.

He unlatched the rifle case, casually opening the plastic box. He ran his hand down the barrel, feeling the gloss finish. His heart beat faster, sprinting after his thoughts. He sighed, fingered the cardboard box of bullets, filled with one solution, and flicked the tab open.

“I guess this is it,” he said to no one.

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End Lesstin Kering (Master)

(edit: to find additional End Lesstin Kering posts, use the ELK or end lesstin kering labels. I will make a project list every month, showing the stories written during that time, which I will list here, once it is created.)

(edit 2: List of stories)

Sounds like an odd name for a blog entry, right? So, what is End Lesstin Kering?

I'm going to write (roughly) the same short story, every week, for the next year. Or however long it takes for the basic elements of writing a short story to either fall apart, or become redundant. More on that below.

I've been playing with ideas of story permutation and story production. I want people to see what goes into making a story. I suppose, I dream that some young, beginning writer, will see the garbage I'm making at times and, maybe, feel inspired, or confident.

Over the months, I came up with some odd and interesting ideas, but nothing I felt was so gripping that I wanted to do it. End Lesstin Kering appeared in my mind during a workout. I'm not sure if good ideas are common when exercising. Might be worth investigating.

Common wisdom says there comes a point when additional tinkering offers no value. I'm all for choosing the perfect word, but eventually it doesn't help. Lists of rules often appear suggesting such things. I feel I should start by saying I agree with the general idea. I've destroyed several of my own stories by just rolling them through permutations of the same thing.

But, sometimes, tinkering tells me a lot about the character, and about the character's world that readers never learn. So, I aim to allow a reader to explore a character, more or less, as I do. See the strangeness that is an early draft, or a very late draft, see some of the transformation a character and world can go through.

So, I'm not tinkering as much as entirely recreating. I'm starting blank and writing oneward with roughly the same world.

In this case, I want to see the journey taken by Lesstin Kering as he, week after week, lives the same story, or as close to it as inspiration takes me on any given day.

Below are the rules I aim to follow for End Lesstin Kering:

1) The story may not be more than 1,500 words long
2) The story must be restarted from scratch, every time
3) No more than a week may be spent on one iteration, after which it must be added to the ELK project, regardless of its quality
4) The story should have a beginning, middle, and end, with at least a semblance of a plot arc.
5) Abandoned stories do not count toward the 52 weeks of ELK writing, but still must be posted.

1) I may violate one rule, as long as I do not break the same rule the week before. Any story that breaks a rule will be marked as such, and note which rule was broken.
2) Clearly, I can change the rules, add more, remove some, or whatever feels necessary, as the project moves along.
3) Abandoned stories are posted with an X in their name (eg End Lesstin Kering X1) as opposed to the normal naming structure (End Lesstin Kering 5).