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Burrs and Thistles

By zombie HollyHopDrive in Fiction
Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

You can't figure out what's wrong with a marriage by pulling it apart and looking at all the pieces. You'll never get it back together again. Kate and I spent an entire summer deconstructing our relationship. The third day of spring found us standing on opposite sides of the kitchen, two strangers with nothing in common, except perhaps a shared knowledge of how straightforward falling out of love can be if you're methodical about it.

That's how it ended.

The division of assets was amicable enough. She didn't like my books. I never used the blender. And so it went on like this. The only thing we couldn't divide was the dog. Kate wasn't prepared to give it up, and I had to concede that technically it was hers. It was my present to her on our first Christmas after we got married. Her introduction to it was as a writhing ball of fur and teeth, tumbling out of a shoe box I'd hastily shoved it into sixty seconds earlier. She got such a surprise she picked it up of the bed, kissed it on the head awkwardly, then burst into tears. I think she was expecting a pair of runners.

Kate emptied the house of herself over several days. The dog, which came to be known as Nash for reasons I can no longer remember, was part of that final exodus. Nash barrelled into the car before he was invited. In his haste, he managed to pop the lens out of Kate's sunglasses with one paw and puncture a carton of chocolate milk with the other. Kate tried to drag him out but he was having none of it, hell-bent on drinking from the milky river now coursing its way through the valleys of vinyl upholstery. Not sure what to do, I went inside to get a cloth. By the time I came out, they were gone.

The next day, I found Nash sunbathing on the front lawn. I called Kate. He'd been missing all day but she guessed he might show. I sat with him on the kitchen floor, and picked burrs and thistles of some unknown shortcut from his fur, building a neat pile of plant matter on the linoleum. He leaned up against me and I stroked his ears, until I heard Kate's car in the driveway.

It took three more times for this to happen before Kate said you know what, don't worry about it, keep the fucking dog, in the matter-of-fact way that she had. I didn't complain; the house was too big for one. I think Nash knew it, too.

If you dropped by unannounced that summer, you probably would have found us lounging around the house approximately under the ceiling fan in the main room. Nash would be fast asleep on the beanbag, his head the epicentre of a widening drool stain darkening the fabric. I'd be lying along the length of the couch reading Steinbeck or Salinger. My fiction collection consisted wholly of books they forced us to read in high school.

In our free time, we tried to figure out what to do with the rest our lives.


Populations shift faster than the city can keep up. Spacious school yards can suddenly fill up with portable classrooms, a microcosm of urban sprawl. Our favourite walk took us along the back edge of one of these schools. A clear memory is of Nash as a puppy, running relays up and down the length of the fence-line, and gobbling up the crusts of sandwiches children poke through the fence. Kate used to think this was hilarious.

Nowadays it's an imposing row of makeshift classrooms forming a kind of psychological Berlin Wall - a narrow, no-mans-land against the fence. Walking here makes Nash whine. Does he remember better times, when generous little hands offered lunchbox hors d'oeuvres through the gaps in the wire?

On this particular day we continue on to the edge of the world, or the edge of our world at least. Six-foot fences of urban Australia juxtapose awkwardly against paddocks of knee-high grass. The dog becomes wild again for a time, darting low in amongst it, chasing the scent of invisible monsters. I'm content just to stand on the edge of it all, letting the wind brush grassy tips against my palms.


The first morning Nash is gone I nurse a coffee on the front step and simply wait for him to appear. Eventually I wander up and down the street, loitering on the corners for a time. In the afternoon, I phone Kate to say Nash is missing. Maybe he retraced his steps back across the city to her house. He hasn't. Look, I've gotta go, she says. I'll call you if I see him, okay? At dusk I hurry past the Berlin Wall of portables finding nothing but grass and wind and loneliness at the end of the world.

The next day I call Kate again. Her voice says no luck but she'll call me if he turns up. Her tone says she's a busy person and please don't call again. I sit on the kitchen floor and wait a while. The phone doesn't ring.


Early in the spring, a noise wakes me just before dawn. I listen for a while but I hear nothing further. Now I can't sleep. On a whim, I dress quickly, stuff Nash's leash into my pocket, and head out into the crisp air. Walking past the school I notice a gap has opened up in the row of temporary classrooms. In the breach, the building has left a dark footprint, its edges made indistinct by a dewy, green stubble.

I'm not surprised by what I see next, but I'm unprepared. Untamed grasses have given way to exposed dirt, criss-crossed with the tyre tracks of large vehicles. The dawn light picks out yellow machinery and luminous piles of PVC. What I can't discern in this light is the newest edge of the subdivision. The place further on where the grass begins. It's perhaps a short walk, but I don't feel like making any more discoveries alone.

Opening the kitchen curtain throws a beam of light across the linoleum, highlighting the dints and scratches that life has bestowed upon it. Taking Nash's leash out of my pocket, I head for the bedroom. Under the bed, behind cobwebs and lost socks, I find what I've come for. A dusty cardboard box, that for one brief moment held a confused puppy. On top there's a photo of Kate I took on our honeymoon. She's taken the short straws from cocktails and has them poking from her mouth like vampire teeth. Underneath that, I'll make room for a tightly rolled dog's leash, next to a small bag of burrs and thistles.


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Burrs and Thistles | 79 comments (36 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
But Ford, that man wants to knock my house down! (2.75 / 4) (#6)
by rpresser on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 12:03:36 PM EST

(yellow machinery)
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
He can do it while you're away, can't he? $ (none / 0) (#49)
by wobblywizard on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 08:17:08 AM EST

You never win an argument with anyone who fucks you or signs your paychecks. I just smile, bite my lip and sip my drink. --Philalawyer
[ Parent ]

1st paragraph made me cry$ (2.50 / 2) (#10)
by nasty1 on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 02:56:38 PM EST

yeah yeah whatever
Very good, catches a mood that not many can (2.50 / 2) (#11)
by siberian on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 03:01:17 PM EST

If you've loved deeply and for a long time and then lost it this strikes a chord. Good work

wow (3.00 / 11) (#15)
by circletimessquare on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 05:40:50 PM EST

i've stumbled into this strange weird world

called "fiction on k5 worth reading"

and, strangely enough, i agree with maynard, but like this, even though this is clearly chick fiction

but, even though i like it, a little part of me wants still wants to see what lode runner said happen to this story:

In-class assignment for Wednesday April 5, 2006: Tandem Story. Each person will pair off with the person sitting next to them. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on until both people agree a conclusion has been reached. The story must be coherent, and each paragraph relevant to the prior one.
. . . and here's what one pair turned in!

Rebecca <surname> and Gary <surname>
English 144A
Creative Writing
Prof. <name>

At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The camomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who had once said in happier times, that he liked camomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So camomile was out of the question.

Meanwhile, Advance Team Captain Carl Harris was leading his patrol squadron into orbit over Skylon 4. Carl had more important things to think about than the neuroses of that air-headed asthmatic woman named Laurie who, after one sweaty night over three months ago, was still desperately clinging to an illusion of a relationship she had fabricated in her unbalanced mind. "Alpha Tango One to Geostation One-Niner-Three", he said into his subspace communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance..." But before he could sign off a bluish plasma beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit threw him out of his seat and into the cockpit control panel.

He hit his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel", Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth -- when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. "Why must one lose one's innocence to become a woman?" she pondered wistfully.

Little did she know, but she has less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian battleship launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted, bleeding-heart peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through the U.N. had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empire who was determined to enslave the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu'udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet and nothing to stop them. They swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in a submarine off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and 15 million other Americans. He slammed his fist on the conference table. "I KNEW this would happen! I am exercising my executive privledge to annul that treaty effective IMMEADIATELY! Ready the nukes, we're gonna blow those bastards out of the sky!"

This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.

Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium.



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

hmmm (none / 1) (#20)
by khallow on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 07:30:41 PM EST

Tandem fiction would be interesting. My luck, I'd get stuck with one of the gay trolls.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

How would we tell the difference? [nt] (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by BJH on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 03:22:39 AM EST

Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
Ow! (none / 0) (#54)
by khallow on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 10:45:07 AM EST

That hurt! But I'm pretty sure you'll know it when you see it.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

j/k [nt] (none / 0) (#55)
by BJH on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 11:52:12 AM EST

Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
that reminds me (none / 1) (#26)
by livus on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 09:54:32 PM EST

I must go back to other timelines.com one of these days.  

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
I LOLed (none / 1) (#27)
by t1ber on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 10:01:02 PM EST

I actually laughed out loud at that story loud enough the wife wanted to know what I was reading.

This will be the first, and last, time she actually hits me.

I LOLed.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

i liked this. (2.80 / 5) (#17)
by wampswillion on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 06:37:59 PM EST

very much.   made me cry tho.  

1st vote, 1st FP vote /nt (2.66 / 3) (#25)
by terryfunk on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 09:41:45 PM EST

I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

very well done!!! (2.50 / 2) (#28)
by dakini on Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 10:05:36 PM EST

I enjoyed this story and could see the dog as clear as can be..:o)

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
-1, feelings (2.00 / 2) (#43)
by r3u8rb on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 06:02:24 AM EST

Join me on irc.slashnet.org #Kuro5hin.org - the official Kuro5hin IRC channel.
Thank you for coming back and giving us this. (2.50 / 2) (#45)
by mr strange on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 07:53:43 AM EST


intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
FUCKING BEAUTIFUL................. (2.50 / 2) (#46)
by lostArt on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 08:12:53 AM EST

(I still have the chills...)

"Angry moody sexy = K5," yaksox
+1 FP, just gotta add my praise (2.50 / 2) (#52)
by wobblywizard on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 09:04:14 AM EST

Really, that story somehow hit home. I'd like to read more of this, perhaps even a little longer? Doesn't have to be limited to relationship stories, too. With that quality of writing, I'd read and vote +1FP for japanese tentacle porn ;-).

You never win an argument with anyone who fucks you or signs your paychecks. I just smile, bite my lip and sip my drink. --Philalawyer

touching and perfect as is (none / 1) (#60)
by SaintPort on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 09:07:35 PM EST

I didn't really want to know the gory details.


Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

i know (none / 1) (#61)
by zombie HollyHopDrive on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 09:10:24 PM EST

i place too much value on transparency

[He blew]inside..m..e.. [and verily] corrected a deviated septum and cauterized my turbinates. - MichaelCrawford
[ Parent ]
and I on opacity <>< (none / 0) (#62)
by SaintPort on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 09:22:43 PM EST

Search the Scriptures
Start with some cheap grace...Got Life?

[ Parent ]
Great Job! (none / 1) (#64)
by Abominable Abitur on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 10:47:28 PM EST

I really enjoyed it.

"Terrorism is only a viable "political activist" method for marginalized nutjobs, bottom line. The backlash that it causes makes it intractable for any reasonable ideology. Which is why you don't generally see wild athiest suicide bombers in america's streets." - lonelyhobo
yes, excellent... (none / 1) (#65)
by cibby on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 11:07:33 PM EST

a great piece of writing...

you have quite a talent for a zombie...

Excellent story (2.75 / 4) (#66)
by Sgt York on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 11:40:18 PM EST

Sorry I missed it in the queue. The emotion is captured quite well. You have talent.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.

thanks (none / 0) (#68)
by zombie HollyHopDrive on Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 11:54:39 PM EST

If you liked this, you'll probably enjoy this also. I did.

[He blew]inside..m..e.. [and verily] corrected a deviated septum and cauterized my turbinates. - MichaelCrawford
[ Parent ]
Awesome (2.50 / 2) (#69)
by Eight Star on Wed Apr 19, 2006 at 02:03:49 AM EST

Looks like another great k5 fiction author.
I'll be watching for more.

We're not terrific but we're competent. (2.66 / 3) (#70)
by spooked on Wed Apr 19, 2006 at 02:40:33 AM EST

is it wicked not to care? <nt> (none / 0) (#75)
by The Diary Section on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 11:23:54 AM EST

Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]
This captured (2.83 / 6) (#71)
by Grayworld on Wed Apr 19, 2006 at 10:23:06 AM EST

the sense of fog that comes right after separation very well. Especially a separation that apparently wasn't an angry, betrayal or infidelity laced affair, but rather one that died slowly, deliberately, after much effort at trying to figure the issues out and solve them and left much ambiguity in the heart, if not the mind, afterwards. When can I talk to her? What's appropriate to say? What common ground is left between us-is the dog a common concern, or is "keep the fucking dog" the blowing of one of the last bridges between the two of you-just as hearing words from her that let you know it's she's busy and just wants to keep moving away from you. And most effectively, you did a nice job of describing the sense of emptiness afterwards and the struggle to fill it and how things like old pictures of the way it was showing up in a cardboard boxes remind you that the whole process was, on balance, a personal tragedy.

At least that's how it affected me. It seemed too real to be fiction.

Fair but a bit unbalanced to be sure!

well done $ (2.75 / 4) (#72)
by skyknight on Wed Apr 19, 2006 at 09:55:42 PM EST

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
Excellent, Really good (2.66 / 3) (#73)
by blackpaw on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 01:37:29 AM EST

My favourite type type of writing, expressive, but succinct.

I have to know (2.50 / 2) (#74)
by blackpaw on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 01:38:26 AM EST

What happened to Nash ? Underneath that, I'll make room for a tightly rolled dog's leash, next to a small bag of burrs and thistles.

Is he dead ? Missing ?

Very good (2.50 / 2) (#76)
by aberryman on Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 04:33:11 PM EST

I admire the way you conveyed the emotion succinctly.  Very well done.

Wow (none / 1) (#77)
by p3d0 on Sun Apr 23, 2006 at 01:06:13 PM EST

Hard to believe this is fiction. Nice job.
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
Good (none / 1) (#78)
by v3x3d1 on Sun May 14, 2006 at 12:05:26 AM EST

Enjoyable read.

another contentless post of praise (3.00 / 2) (#79)
by Delirium on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:58:22 PM EST

Very well done. As everyone else has said, it's nicely succinct yet not choppy or dry.

Burrs and Thistles | 79 comments (36 topical, 43 editorial, 0 hidden)
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