A bit of text found on my Alphasmart, file seven

I’ve started carrying my Alphasmart Neo again. I’ll write about my Alphasmart soon – for now, if you don’t know, it’s simply a portable keyboard designed for schoolkids that works great for writing first drafts. I had to clean out the old text from the machine. Seven of the eight files are full of stuff I wrote a while back. Six were parts of short stories: “Single Malt” – a modern retelling of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” which  will be in my upcoming short story collection, and “Like Regular Chickens” which… well, won’t.

The seventh is a bit of text I wrote and never uploaded – at least I don’t think I ever took if off of the Alphasmart. If I’m wrong and I used it somewhere – sorry. It’s a bit of true story written down in the third person. My name isn’t Frank. The kid didn’t have spiked hair. I was involved in a minor accident in the MiniVan. It totalled the van, actually, but that didn’t take much, it was a rolling piece of shit. A shame, really, it was a rolling piece of shit, but it was rolling, and that is the only thing important to me.

Before I clear the memory of the Alphasmart I wanted to put the text somewhere, for safe keeping. Why not here?

At any rate, here’s a snippet of writing, truth, fiction, whatever.


The first surprising thing about a car accident is the sound. It is very quick and very loud. A pressure wave of impact, a punch of suddenly rended metal and a tinkling trail of showering glass and small steel pieces striking the asphalt.

The second suprising thing about a car accident is the way that your logical mind catches up with your limbic system. The inner ancient lizard brain knows something has happened, somthing bad, though it has no idea what. That hank of emergency response nerve endings, shoved up inside your big old bulbous fancy modern brainy grey matter has been there, unchanged, since the days of charging mastodons – so how could it know about automobile crashes?

Something sure sets it off, though. Before the final bit of physics (Newtonian laws observed, bodies at rest disturbed, bodies in motion trying to stay in motion, gravity, energy adsorbed and turned into waste heat) has played out it sends out its panic juices. Eyes bulge, heart races,  fingers clutch. Only then, too late, really, does the mind catch up. The eyes look around and the brain starts trying out scenarios – “Did that guy behind me just rear-end my car?” “Was that a truck?” “Where did THAT come from?” – but every possibility is thrown out – judged an impossibility by the information coming in from the eyes.

So Frank sat there motionless, stunned. He wasn’t hurt, though his teeth ached a bit from being forced together with his head impact-shoved into the seatback. Then he saw the mangled motorcycle out in the middle of the intersection ahead. That was what had hit him. He had been patiently sitting motionless at the intersection in the left turn lane waiting for the green arrow. He looked at the crumpled machine, watched fluids running out of the mess,  and realized the rider was nowhere to be seen. Frank’s engine was still running so he switched it off and started working up the courage to open the door. He didn’t want to. He didn’t even want to look around. He didn’t want to think about what had happened to the rider. Finally, he decided that there was no getting around it and with a rictus of dread stretched across his face, he opened the door and stepped out onto the little strip of concrete that served as the left-turn median.

The people from the other cars were already out and looking around.

“Where’s the rider?” asked Frank as he gingerly looked under his truck.

“Oh, he’s way back there,” said the guy from the Honda parked in back of him. “He was racing, doing wheelies, and he must of fallen off his bike.”

“You mean I was hit by a riderless bike?”

“Yeah, looks like it.”

“Did he hit you?”

“Nope, it went right by me, bounced off you and that red truck, then out there.”

Frank looked back and saw about fifty yards back up the road, some kid with blond spiked hair trying to stand, brushing road grime off his leather jacket. Frank was glad the kid was all right, relieved he didn’t have to deal with a mangled corpse jammed under his truck.

Still, looking at the damage to the back quarter of his truck, the twisted metal, the shredded tire, the pile of red plastic bits below where the brake light used to be, he found himself wishing the guy was hurt – at least  just a little.


Now that I read that snippet, I think I”ll steal a piece of it, clean it up, punch it up, and insert it into another story – “Tailgate.”

There’s a rear-end car accident in that one, and I like the bit about the sound of rending metal.

Invasive Species

One ancient cobwebby memory  – hazy and indistinct – actually, I’m not sure if this happened at all, I was only a little bit o’ snot, but I was visiting some old woman and stuck my finger into her parakeet’s cage and the bastard bit the crap out of me. I don’t remember blood (and blood always sticks in a child’s memory) so it must not have been very bad. It barely hurt, but it sure embarrassed and scared the piss out of me.

Ever since, I haven’t liked parakeets.

Now there are these birds called Monk Parakeets. They don’t look like a parakeet to me, they are too big. Another name for the same bird is Quaker Parrot (and another is Myiopsitta monachus) which seems a little bit better to me. They aren’t your old spinster’s parakeet. What the hell is the difference between a parakeet and a parrot anyway?

Back from Googling— Oh, a parakeet is simply a small parrot. A subset of parrotdom. You don’t hear the term Budgie (from budgerigar) much in Texas, which is a shame in my opinion. There are also cockatiels, which are small cockatoos. There are even parrotlets, a name that sounds almost as cool as budgerigar.

At any rate, some of these Monk Parakeet fellers escaped captivity back in the sixties and have been thriving in the wild. They have become an invasive species. That’s quite an ugly descriptor for a colorful bird, even if they bite. It’s more than a little controversial, but many people think the birds damage crops and upset the natural balance of the ecosystem.


Like a lot of people, I first heard of feral budgerigars from the documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” I assumed it was a San Francisco sort of thing, until I started reading in the local Dallas paper about the battle between the Monk Parakeets and the local electric utility.

It seems the emerald fowl like to build their large irregular nests in the midst of high voltage power distribution systems. They may be attracted to the warmth. These grow until a stray stick shorts across an air gap, the nest catches fire, and the neighborhood goes dark.

A colony of parakeets set up housekeeping in a large transformer yard near the White Rock Lake Dam. That set up a battle between TXU and the birds, with the local animal lovers taking sides.

It’s a complicated question. They are an invasive species, like dandelions, kudzu, or the Japanese beetle. Unlike these, however, monk parakeets are a cute invasive species. Attractiveness counts for something, even if you do set fire to high voltage distribution systems.

TXU did build some towers especially designed to lure the nesting sites away from the electricity. These have been ignored by the birds. Over time, everyone seems to have settled into an uneasy truce, with moderate amounts of nest removal keeping everything under control.

I was thinking about the Monk Parakeets and realized that there is this power distribution system near my house. The local Duck Creek trail runs up to the transformer yard, because it is built under the high voltage towers that string north along the Owens trail. I had walked past the place, listened to the power hum, felt the warmth in the winter, but never looked for birds.

Have the Monk Parakeets invaded the power transformers down the road from my house? I was planning on going to the library and try to get some writing done. I’m close to getting twenty stories together for my Kindle book, but I have some editing left. Looking at my schedule, I was able to carve out a few extra minutes and stop at the power yard along the way.

Sure enough, as soon as I pulled up I saw the telltale masses of sticks lodged in between the conductors running up the towers. The birds actually live inside of these things, well protected from predators, if not high voltage. The air was filled with the raucous cackling of the birds. They can be trained to speak human without much trouble (I’ve always wanted a trained bird that cussed and insulted people) but these were very vocal in their own vernacular.

Monk Parakeet

A parakeet flies by.

I walked around watching and listening to the Parakeets as they came and went, often bringing more sticks to enlarge their dwellings. The birds are very pretty and active – fun to keep an eye on. They were tough to photograph; there was a wall topped with barbed wire in the way and they were pretty wary about the whole thing. A sign on the wall said, “Report any Unusual Activity,” and gave a phone number.

Monk Parakeet

A couple of Monk Parakeets working on their nest.

Plus there is all that voltage. A faint whiff of ozone. It was strange to watch the delicate, active, colorful birds playing around the cables, towers, and insulators. Their cackling competed with the constant droning hum of the immense power coursing through the place, running all the air conditioners, lighting, and big screen televisions for miles around. There was no way to safely get close – no way to cross the external boundary of the transformer yard.

And that was fine with me; I didn’t want to get bit.