By Mitchell Duran

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It was a sunny, crisp Wednesday afternoon after my bread delivery shift at Josey Baker Bread in San Francisco when I realized or permitted myself to feel that New Year’s Eve was close.

“Jesus,” I said, looking at my phone, noting the date. “It’s tomorrow.”

After enduring almost a year of coronavirus, celebrating anything, let alone a celebration centered around evening parties, typically inside and drinking, felt strange. Thankfully I have not been affected by COVID as I’m sure the families of the 330 thousand lost so far have been. So, how does one raise a glass of champagne to a year of lies, death, corruption, and mismanagement in the wake of that? It’s challenging to get one’s head around, let alone stay present enough to remember what one is genuinely thankful for this terrible year. On top of that, like many others across the US, my traditions of debauchery and merriment have been thrown to the wolves in the name of COVID safety. I respect the sacrifice, but it’s still difficult, especially on a holiday whose sole purpose is to honor a new year. …


“It All Started with a Word” is a series where I choose any word from Robert Hendrickson’s great book Words and Phrase Origins, 4th Edition and write, well, whatever comes to mind. The exercise is a mixture of freewriting, research, and play.

“Duck and Cover” is a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion. Ducking and covering is useful at conferring a degree of protection to personnel situated outside the nuclear fireball radius but still within sufficient range of the nuclear explosion that standing upright and uncovered is likely to cause serious injury or death. …


“It All Started with a Word” is a series where I choose any word from Robert Hendrickson’s great book Words and Phrase Origins, 4th Edition and write, well, whatever comes to mind. The exercise is a mixture of freewriting, research, and play.

Boccie. An Italian game of lawn bowling played on a dirt court shorter and narrower than a bowling green. Boccie takes its name from the Italian boccia, “ball.” It is often played in city parks today. See SPALDING.

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The old five hippies arrived at the court in Golden Gate Park in the early afternoon. …


Your Early Morning Freewrite

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As I drove around San Francisco on my morning delivery, dodging waving apologists as they sprinted across the street like erratic pigeons, I mentally cursed my jean jacket for holding my sunglasses hostage at home. The sun was high in the sky and bright. I couldn’t see a thing. At least the sky was blue, I thought. At least there is that today. One of many things, I tried to remember. One of the many.

With the delivery delivered, I took a break to write something Patti Smith said about Burrough’s in a podcast.

“He’s always looking for something in his writing,” Smith revealed. …


Your Early Morning Freewrite

There was no way into Bentham’s room. No one had a key. There was no secret door or code. Not a soul knew where it even was or that it even existed. Bentham was to themselves, and was not to everyone else. A sympathetic person would wonder if they were lonely but, they would be wrong. Why? By their assumption that Bentham was human.

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That was the point though, putting the finger on the weaknesses of mankind. Sympathy, narcissism, solitude, all the things mankind is born shackled with and grapples with till their death (another anxiety), Bentham, in its hidden ways, provided a service of connectivity for the world writ large. …


Your Early Morning Freewrite

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We knew things were bad when the heat began to rise and stayed rising.

The streets started to melt underneath our feet, black sticky, smoky tar that we couldn’t get from underneath our fingernails. Cars began to pop and sputter like popcorn in a metal cage. Stores boarded up their windows to keep out the sun, too, keep in the AC until they closed down entirely. The higher-ups told us the warmth was seasonal, that it would pass, that we were more robust than Mother Nature and Her wrath.

It only got worse.

The birds in the sky stopped flying. The oceans — beyond what anyone had read in the bible or science fiction — began to bubble. Pet cemeteries became irrelevant as crop fields burned. Fishes in their bowls boiled. Bears no longer came out of their caves. Rivers ran dry. The forests fell black and decimated. The sky ran blood red-orange as it clashed with the sun, some days blotching its light out for weeks on end. …


Your Early Morning Freewrite — /3

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A stood outside a delivery room in a hospital like any other. It was a relatively calm Sunday afternoon, but somebody was being born, a new beginning. Doctors and nurses rushed by, paying little attention to A. They assumed they were with the family of the woman giving birth in the other room, their screams snaking out from underneath the door and into the main hall. …


Your Afternoon Freewrite — /2

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As the final letter in the Greek alphabet, Omega is often used to denote the last, the end, or the ultimate limit of a set, in contrast to Alpha.

The first thing O noticed about the casino was the wild electric multi-colored whirring machines in full tilt. The mechanic echo spun in the air, catch or be killed invisible. O watched the sounds entrails snake through the aisles of the poker and blackjack tables, jump over the shoulders of howling men in suits and ties; the dying men in rags and lies.


Your Early Morning Freewrite — /1

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A made tea with the sound of ravens hacking the dirt outside. They never heard that before. Like everything to A, this was something new. A watched them from the window, somewhat afraid of the curved winged’ things caught A watching in the act of feeding. Their curiosity outweighed their terror. The ravens jerked their tight necks back, readied their beaks, and thrust hard at the earth. Over and over the beasts battered the ground. Torn dirt and rugged pebbles exploded forth. In the dawn, bloody worms ripped to shreds lay dead on the ground, pulled from the cracks.


Your Evening Freewrite — 2/

Vincent, at that moment, felt a sudden sense of history to this mysterious woman. He couldn’t pinpoint a time in the past, had no recollection of the present. Still, the electricity of familiarity vibrated in the space between their bodies in the encroaching dusk. There was no denying the sensation. Perhaps the spirit came from something in her face, the curl of her wrists, or in the sharpness of her tone that brought this feeling. Vincent scanned the sharp angles of her brow and chin, straining to take the physical to recall it in memory. Nothing. All Vincent saw was focus and will. Her charcoal hair and luminous amber skin glowed like the bark of a tree awash in sunlight. …

About

Mitchell Duran

Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer. He earned a Master’s in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University in 2019. Find more work at Mitchellduran.com

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