A cold, sweet, thing.

Kindness isn’t something hard to remember.

It was cold on the lake.
All the children wore layers and thick hats,
the kind that make it hard to really see them,
and when a flag sprung, everyone said,
“Flag!” And pointed.

The layered children ran toward the flag.
Ice fishing in Maine has a way of making
children, and all people, stay outside.

Two fish were freezing to death in the snow.
They had been brought topside a few minutes earlier.
“Are they dead?” He asked. A curious four-year-old.

“Not yet. But soon.”

“Why are they dead?”

“Because they are freezing and belong in the water.”

“But, why are they dead?”

“Because we caught them and brought them up here.”

“Can I touch them?”

“Yes.”

“Hi, fish. Hi, fish.”
The boy stroked the dying fish with his gloved hand.

-M. Taggart

Screaming Hills – A published Story

This is the first chapter of Screaming Hills. An additional 4,000 words (along with this of course) is published with Z Publishing House. Enjoy the read!
Written by -M. Taggart
Fiction

Screaming Hills

“What can burn your thoughts, can burn your soul.” Nick tossed a rock over the edge of the cliff. He listened carefully as the rock hit the side of the cliff face. He didn’t hear it land at the bottom.

“What the hell does that mean? You should write that down.” Rick stepped on his cigarette.  Smoke spilled from his nostrils as he spoke.

“It means whatever you’d like for it to mean. Have you ever noticed how people are in this town? Not all, but most. The depressed expressions with sunken eyes and an edge of hostility in their walk?” Nick opened his arms wide with his palms up. They stood at the top of Indian’s Leap, the town overlook. One side consisted of the entire view of their home town, The Falls. The other side was a view of their High School rivals, Little-Vegas, as they liked to call it. “It’s as if they’ve given up.”

It was noon. The sun was too hot to not be under shade. Rick knew the heat of the sun wouldn’t keep Nick from standing in this one spot for the next hour. Sweat would soak both of them and their shirts would stick to their backs and he knew Nick wouldn’t move. He’d stand there and look at the town.

“I guess. Maybe I’m one of them. I don’t know. There’s not much money in either of these towns. The paper mills went under years ago and now they sit and rot. What’s to be happy about?”

“Isn’t that just it though?” Nick smiled.

“Don’t go on one of your rants. Come on, let’s get down and find a place out of the sun.”

“It’s funny. When I’m asked a question, I expect that I’m expected to answer the question. You asked. Now I answer. How about the corn fields. How about the next strong thunder storm, or the wind that comes with it, or the rain that drenches the fields which creates the corn. All this corn throughout this valley and the sweet smell it spreads and no one can find a reason to love this? No one but maybe the farmer? But! We know the farmers’ kids, and they are dealing, and walk with their sunken eyes and spread nothing but filth and hate along with a deadly addiction. So the happiness stopped with the farmer who created the sweet smelling corn and begs the skies to open and dump beauty on his fields; only to be crushed to a stop by his off springs’ inability to accept happiness. Does that sum it nicely for you?”

Rick lit another cigarette, inhaled fully, and again smoke vacated through his nostrils. “You won’t be here much longer will you?”

“I’ll stand here longer. But no, I will not stay in this town. I argue with myself. I’d like to stay and conquer my back yard. I’ve read and heard how important it is to do this before leaving. Otherwise you chase what you had failed to accomplish. But, I doubt this is true because if it were than no one would ever be anywhere without having failed first. I also think most of the people who say this only say it to sound as though they’ve put true thought into the statement. And from what I see, people are full of shit. I want to develop as a person and I’m sure I’ll stunt my development if I don’t leave. I want to walk in a town that lives on hope and feel what that might taste like. Do you see?”

“I get it. You asked me a question. I need to answer. But you asked if I see. Yes, I see, but I don’t understand. How can you feel what hope might taste like?”

“I only said that to be sure you were listening. Actually, it’s like this; what if hope was chicken soup made from scratch served at a restaurant that was loved by the town. What if the chef was a grandmother who had ten grandchildren and those grandchildren stopped in from time to time to have the chicken soup. What if the grandchildren loved their grandmother so much they hoped she might live until she was one hundred and twenty and what if each time they stepped into the restaurant they said a prayer asking for just that. And then, they order the chicken soup.”

Nick’s face was tense. Rick knew it wasn’t easy for Nick. How Nick expressed himself with words was a fraction of what Nick felt inside. He’d seen Nick turn to the Nick that the others talked about. Feared. “You know, this time, I think I do understand. And yes, I’d order that soup. And I’d taste hope. I get it.”

“Then why can’t the people of this town get that corn is their fucking chicken soup. They are blessed with the most fertile valley in all of New England. The fucking river rushed over its fucking edges so many times in the past that it’s literally farmland handed to them by God and they don’t see it. They don’t get it. They smash their bodies with heroin and coke and whatever other drugs they can get. And they fall into what they consider normal for any small town with its mills gone. And they die. They all fucking die.”

Rick watched as Nick’s face transformed from tense to focused and angry and relaxed again. The sun was still too hot. And their shirts were now sticking to them. But he’d stand right here with Nick and the both of them wouldn’t be going anywhere, just yet.

***

Here’s the Amazon link if you’d like to read the rest.

https://www.amazon.com/Americas-Emerging-Literary-Fiction-Writers/dp/1097684032/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Emerging+literary+writers+Northeast+region+z+publishing+house&qid=1568726600&s=gateway&sr=8-1

And here’s a wonderful testimonial:
“This a fantastic short story collection of current emerging writers. Lots of great, varied stories. Matt Taggart is the reason that I bought this and his small town, mystical nuanced story is excellent! Matt is a fantastic writer and poet with a fantastic blog on word press. I highly recommend you check out his writing in any format.”

Have the best day possible,

Matt

 

Poem-

I like my morning.
It’s crisp with a rawness from the approaching storm.
Sleet, ice, some snow and rain
are in the mix for the next 24 hours. So they say.
I watched, as Megan walked Gavin down our driveway
to wait for his bus. If the storm is bad in the afternoon,
we’ll jump in the truck and pick Gavin up at his school.
I like to do that for the bus driver on bad weather days.
We live on the side of a mountain and the road is steep.
Megan has the day off.
I don’t know what we’ll do today, but clearly, I’m already
ignoring ‘work’ and writing about simple things instead.
I like simple things. Maybe we’ll go to the movies, a simple
and random thing to do on a Monday.
And maybe we’ll go for a drive on a dirt road and listen
to the sound of the sleet as it pangs off the windshield.
Maybe I’ll take a photo to share, something rustic and wild.
That’s the thing about being a self taught writer/poet-
It’s All poetry to me. The waiting for the bus, the watching
out the window, noticing a slight breeze, the thinking of what to do,
the enjoyment of the matrix of life. It’s all right there,
in front of me, waiting to be seen.

-M. Taggart

poem – leftovers

In town is a bench viewing a man chewing his brain,
with little resources to find his thoughts; the bench cared nothing
for the perfectly structured oak tree whimpering in the chilly wind,
instead the bench wished to be ripped from its foundation and
connected to the man with the unruly thoughts. There at least
might live something, even if not holy in nature, possibly there
was hope. The man teetered, then steadied himself by grasping
the oak tree, “Aren’t you the friend I need,” the man said while
grinding his teeth and gazing upward and through the leftover
leaves.

-M. Taggart

 

Stutter Step

I’m cleaning the house.
We have a visitor arriving tomorrow.

It seems every time I start, I stop,
as though I’m going through a metamorphosis
and I’m suppose to know to step back and watch.
Instead I’m forcing my way through the steps
of productivity for the sake of finishing, something.

Earlier at the dump I told the men that my kid
was going to be jealous that I was there without him.
One of them told me how much he liked Gavin and
that he’s a real nice kid.

The man has a stutter. Gavin doesn’t care. He waits
for the man to deliver his words, thinks about an answer,
and does. Then Gavin generally shows him whatever toy
it is that he brought along for the dump run.
It’s nice being at the dump.

Maybe I’m done. Maybe the dump run was enough.
I’ll just lie on the floor and watch the empty ceiling until
something happens.

Or maybe I’ll have an early beer and clean the toilets,
scrub the sink, put on some music, and finish this house
while ignoring contentedness trying to confuse itself as failure.

I think the sun’s coming out

-M. Taggart

Odd Walking Thoughts

The boy scrubbed a rock near the brook. He listened as the squirrels sprung from trees onto brittle leaves which lay lifeless until a quick breeze, or a energetic squirrel, shuffles them. He noticed how the racket made from the busy squirrels might sound like a large animal and how it was hard to know the difference unless you spent much time in the woods, or if you saw with your eyes what you were hearing. The rock looked smooth and glossy while it was wet, but as soon as it dried it looked rough. Again he dipped his shirt sleeve into the brook and began scrubbing. -How much more clean do you need it to be? Asked the mind of a thought.

-M. Taggart

Flash Fiction – In the darkness of love

Flash Fiction
Written by -M. Taggart
8/6/19

 

In the darkness of love

 

It was dark in their bedroom. He had shut off the light, placed the book on the nightstand, and rested his head against the headboard. Some of the book was still in him. He couldn’t decide if it was more dark with his eyes open, or closed. Soon, he’d be able to see her silhouette. And after a few more minutes he’d be able to view her face and then he would watch her sleep and listen to her breathe. He liked it this way. He loved the ease in which she fell asleep next to him. He would notice her twitching as the initial moments of sleep set in. He’d continue to read until his eyes became heavy. While he watched her sleep he would remember small things like what they did on Sunday, or about how she wasn’t shy when grabbing his hand and not letting go. He liked that about her and he liked it about how she introduced him to her friends as “my” as if she owned him. He wanted to be owned by her. He belonged to her in every way. Even now as he rested beside her, he was hers. She shifted slightly and moaned softly. He stroked her cheek gently and whispered, “I love you.” Knowing she wouldn’t remember, but felt full for having done so.

-M. Taggart

Flash Fiction – Lakeside

Flash Fiction – Lakeside
written by -M. Taggart
7/8/19

The water licked the dock quietly. He liked how the breeze pressed against his body and how it made the hairs on his arms feel. His eyes were closed. The sun was hot but not hot enough to make him uncomfortable. He was content lying here doing nothing. He could remember only a handful of times ever feeling like this. One of those times was while he was with his grandfather on a summer day. He remembered rocking on a wooden outdoor swing in the backyard near the garden. He rocked until he thought of nothing, not even the sun or whether it was hot, or of the carrots that he wanted to pull from the earth, wash off with the garden hose, and eat right away. He rocked with a faint notion of feeling gratitude toward his grandfather for allowing him this moment and trusting he would be safe while alone. Even that faded and he didn’t think of it or about how it made him feel. Now though, the dock was his outdoor swing, sitting just above the lake. In the distance a dog barked and the bark echoed in his mind.

-M. Taggart

Published Work:

https://mtaggartwriter.wordpress.com/my-book/

poem

“A cloud can be anything it wants especially when you’re the one to have brought it into being.” He says. “A darkening of internal produces the cloud to become filled with rain.” And the rain lands on his head after having thought about its creation. “See?” He says as he shows you his palms. ‘I see that the cloud was a storm cloud and it let lose what mother natures describes as natural. That is what I see.’ “Watch again. I’ll make the cloud disappear in sections. First I’ll trim the sides of the clouds, you’ll see, then I’ll eliminated the moisture and soon after the rain will dissipate and you’ll tell me it wasn’t me, but it is, and then I’ll deliberately remove the cloud completely from the sky.” Eyes drop to graze upon the reality of a few rocks, or even a dusty boot. Anything but this.

The Motionless Moose – A Short Story

The Motionless Moose
Written by -M. Taggart
Fiction. 4/14/19

The Motionless Moose

 

The lake reflected the moon in shimmering splinters as the wind pushed waves inland and finally to his feet. The wind drove directly at the camp from the Northwest. He couldn’t smell the campfire, although he could hear the flickering of the flames just after one of the men shuffled the burning logs around. They were constantly doing this while complaining about how no one could keep a fire going.

That’s the thing about being at camp, he thought. We are in the middle of no where and the owner insisted that we use the metal fire bin with wildlife depicted on the side. They don’t work. The airflow is stifled toward the bottom. He had mentioned that they should drill holes at the bottom of the fire bin for better airflow and was scoffed at. It was always like this. Or, they would talk around him. He left the fire, and them, and brought a chair to the foot of the lake to watch the wind push the white caps around.

Only two men sat at the fire now. The rest had gone to their bunks. It was late but he didn’t want to be in the bunkhouse. They toss and turn and snore while he lays quietly and doesn’t sleep. No. He’d rather sit here and let a moose walk up to him. The wind felt nice on his face. It wasn’t cold. It felt like a comfortably blanket that moves. The waves licking at the shore landed with a calming rhythm. If he could talk with the lake he would have enough company to last the night. Sometimes he could catch a few words of the conversation at the camp fire, but he didn’t want to know what they were talking about so he tried not to listen. He could see the outline of the mountain range on the far side of the lake. He thought about the Indians who knew those mountains and traversed them hundreds of years ago. They truly knew the mountains and lakes and the game. They were not there to own it, but to be with it. He wanted to talk with them and sit at their camp fires even if he didn’t understand a word they said.

He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply bringing in all of the musty smells of the lake. He wondered if he’d be able to smell a moose or a bear if it were close enough. While his eyes were closed and the wind brushed passed his cheeks he heard a clopping sound coming from the shoreline just north of him. He opened his eyes to see a darkened image of a large moose feeding. The moose raised its long legs out of the water and dropped them back into the lake without taking its head out of the water. Just then he heard the harsh hissing sound of steam as the men were done with their night and putting the failed fire out for good. He didn’t bother calling to them. He liked seeing the moose alone. He liked that he could have this and they will know nothing about it. Even if he did tell them they wouldn’t believe him. They’d say a moose wouldn’t come this close to camp with a fire going. They’d tell him moose don’t feed at this time of night. Then they’d tell their stories about how they have seen moose and about how close they’ve gotten to them and him having seen a moose would have dissapeared all together.

The large head of the moose slowly rose from the water, tested the air, and stood motionless for a moment then again started to feed. He closed his eyes and replayed the motionless moose. He had what he needed and what he came for.

The End.

-M. Taggart