June Short Story Month – A Story a Day

I read, more or less, a short story every day. Not every day, but most. Somedays, if I’m not working hard on a novel or other book, and the selections are shortish, I’ll read two or three. I have been doing that all my life. Let’s see… maybe three hundred short stories a year for maybe forty years – that’s in the neighborhood of twelve thousand short stories.

Seems like a lot.

So, it looks like May has been declared short story month. I’m not sure where I read that – or what person or organization actually declared the month. Probably some random blogger. I don’t think the Official International Board for Naming Months Shit had anything to do with it.

Anyway. I missed it. But it did get me thinking. After the gears stopped creaking and the smoke cleared I decided to make June my non-official short story month. I will read a story a day, take notes, and eventually write a blog entry on it.

I will definitely stick to my schedule on reading them – though I might wait before putting it online if there is something else I want to write about that day, so be patient.

The next step is to make a list. I went out to look for:

  1. Thirty One stories by different authors. Yes, I know that June only has thirty days… but thirty one seems like a better number. So it will drag over into July. So sue me.
  2. Stories that I don’t remember reading. This isn’t a firm rule, there are a couple that I read a while back that I want to revisit… but generally new stuff. This wipes out a long list of some of my favorite authors – Ballard, Poe, Denis Johnson, Flannery O’Connor, Lovecraft, Pynchon, Russell Banks… that would otherwise have featured positions because I have read, as far as I can tell, everything they wrote. Or at least all the short stories. On the other hand, there are a few authors on here that I have never read. I’m a bit ashamed of that and see this as a good opportunity for an introduction. Which ones? I’m not telling.
  3. I’m going for breadth, not quality. This is not a list of the best short stories, but an attempt at a wide sampling, hopefully to find something unknown, a new rabbit hole to fall down. I tried to select shorter works whenever possible – time is in great demand.
  4. Finally, I wanted them all to be available free, online, in some sort of readable format. So that all of you can read along if you wish. This was the most difficult and restrictive of the requirements. I’ll include a link with each entry.

This list may change – especially if a link goes dead. Any suggestions will be gladly accepted – if this works, I may do it again.

I thought it would be difficult to fill out the list, but it was very easy. I had to trim it down. I could have gone to a hundred without much trouble.

When I write a review I am careful to only give a tiny hint of a plot – I detest spoilers. Hopefully, I can come up with something interesting to say about each story. Again, I hope that this may look interesting enough that somebody else will read at least a few of these and throw their opinions up.
I’ll start tomorrow… and here’s the current list so far:

1. – The Fall of Edward Barnard
W. Somerset Maugham

2. – Heat
Joyce Carol Oates

3. – A Study in Emerald
Neil Gaiman

Click to access emerald.pdf

4. – The School
Donald Barthelme

5. – Symbols and Signs
Vladimir Nabokov

6. – Gooseberries
Anton Chekhov

7. – Sea Oak
George Saunders

8. Thirteen Wives
Steve Millhauser

9. – “A 32-Year Old Day Tripper”
Haruki Murakami

10 – The Crawling Sky
Joe R Lansdale

Other works
(new story changes each week)

11. The Piece of String
Guy de Maupassant

12. Paladin of the Lost Hour
Harlan Ellison

13. A Father’s Story
Andre Dubus

Click to access FathersStory.pdf

14. Beyond the Door
Philip K Dick

15. Wiggle Room
David Foster Wallace

16. – The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas
Ursula K LeGuin

Click to access rprnts.omelas.pdf

17. The Dark Arts
Ben Marcus

18. The Landlady
Roald Dahl
Man From the South

19. Eyes of a Blue Dog
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

20. A Telephone Call
Dorothy Parker

21. Mexican Manifesto
Roberto Bolaño

22. The Sandman
E.T.A. Hoffmann

23. Hunters in the Snow
Tobias Wolff

24 Red Nails (Conan the Barbarian)
Robert E Howard

25. The Use of Force
William Carlos Williams

26. The Secret Room
Alain Robbe-Grillet

27. From Hell’s Heart I Stab at Thee
Armando Vitalis

28. Pretty Boy
Richard Ford

29. The Garden Party
Katherine Mansfield

30. Passion
Alice Munro

31. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose
Kelly Link

Loving Oil and Gas

Somewhere near Fair Park… Dallas, Texas

“The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam…”
― J.G. Ballard

Loving Oil and Gas, Dallas, Texas

Loving Oil and Gas, Dallas, Texas

Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
—-Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run

We sat in the car
& the night dropped
down until the
only sounds were
the crickets &
the dance of our voices

& for a moment
the world became
small enough to
roll back & forth
between us.”
― Brian Andreas, Hearing Voices – Collected Stories & Drawings

“I come to a red light, tempted to go through it, then stop once I see a billboard sign that I don’t remember seeing and I look up at it. All it says is ‘Disappear Here’ and even though it’s probably an ad for some resort, it still freaks me out a little and I step on the gas really hard and the car screeches as I leave the light.”
― Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero

“[And there was the matter of Dick Turpin. It looked like the same car, except that forever afterwards it seemed able to do 250 miles on a gallon of petrol, ran so quietly that you practically had to put your mouth over the exhaust pipe to see if the engine was firing , and issued its voice-synthesized warnings in a series of exquisite and perfectly-phrased haikus, each one original and apt…
Late frost burns the bloom
Would a fool not let the belt
Restrain the body?
…it would say. And,
The cherry blossom
Tumbles from the highest tree
One needs more petrol]”
― Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Solar Impulse

I had a very busy day planned for today – work in the morning, appointments in Richardson at two, Frisco at three, and Plano at six. Still, there was a gap in there and I found out that there was a chance to go see the Solar Impulse out at DFW Airport before it flies to St. Louis.

Solar Impulse is a Swiss solar-powered aircraft, now on a tour of the US. I had eagerly watched it on the news as it flew from San Francisco to Phoenix and then on to Dallas/Forth Worth. I really wanted to see it in the air, but that requires timing and time I don’t possess, so I had to settle for a visit to the hanger.

I carefully plotted my driving around the city and arrived at the airport early. We took a shuttle bus from the designated parking area to a large temporary hanger where the aircraft was displayed.

Even grounded inside a tent-like hanger it was an amazing sight. It is a huge monster of an aircraft, especially when you consider it only holds one person. With its incredible wingspan and delicate construction it has a look of gentle grace and efficiency that is obvious even when it isn’t moving. I wandered among the onlookers, snapping photos, talking to the crew that was hanging around, and then simply looking, trying to soak up as much of the uniqueness and innovative spirit that I could.

It is something that, under idea conditions, can fly forever – charging its batteries by day. It’s only limits are the weather conditions and how long the pilot can go without sleep. There is no beauty more sublime and powerful than that of something that works so well and so perfectly.

I’m wondering when it will be able to leave. Obviously, it requires still air conditions to take off and the southern gale force winds that have been rocking the area show no signs of abating. It was a strange contrast – the delicate plane, resting peacefully, while a constant howling and snapping din slammed around it – caused by the terrific wind whipping the fabric of the temporary hanger into a frenzy. The sound was so loud that it almost drowned out the thundering roar of the jets taking off from the runway next to the hanger.

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse

Little guy hanging out in the cockpit of the Solar Impulse

Little guy hanging out in the cockpit of the Solar Impulse

Demonstrating the construction techniques of the Solar Impulse

Demonstrating the construction techniques of the Solar Impulse

It's impossible to photograph and difficult to describe how long and slender that wing is.

It’s impossible to photograph and difficult to describe how long and slender that wing is.

The Best Backyard

Trammel and Abrams, East Dallas

Big Boy in a Dallas Backyard

Big Boy in a Dallas Backyard

The statue was in the front yard, until the man made him move
Kip’s Big Boy Statue Gone From Abrams Road Lawn, Thanks to City Code Enforcers
…now he’s in the back yard, but sort of visible from the road.

Still, what a great backyard – imagine the picnics you could have with the Big Boy looking over your spread. You would be the coolest dude in the ‘hood.

I have such great memories of sitting around a table in a Kip’s Big Boy (or Shoney’s Big Boy, or Bob’s Big Boy – depending on the state I was living in) late at night… or early in the morning. Sitting around eating some greasy food, tired, talking – especially with people I knew really well, or people I had just met… or best of all, a mixture of both.

Where did the waitresses working in Big Boys at three in the morning come from? They were all the same – middle aged, rode hard and put up wet, brutally efficient. They were their own breed. Imagine the stories they could tell.

Late Night breakfast after three at a Big Boy, or any cheap diner in any town – that is an existence in an entirely separate dimension from the real world. As long as everyone at the table can cough up enough to cover the check – it’s impossible to imagine any troubles from the other hours of the day or the other places in your life being bad enough to intrude on that calm tired orgy of comfort food.

Creation of Chalk

“You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose… That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes; it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself?”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Farthest Shore


“He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn’t know about the union
of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.

The Master’s power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching


Texas Sculpture Garden
Frisco, Texas

And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…
—- Milton, Office Space

Paul Kittelson, Houston
2001 Stainless Steel

Staples, Paul Kittelson

Staples, Paul Kittelson

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Staples, Paul Kittelson

Staples, Paul Kittelson

“The gods are strange. It is not our vices only they make instruments to scourge us. They bring us to ruin through what in us is good, gentle, humane, loving.”
― Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Staples, Paul Kittelson, photograph manipulated in Corel Painter

Staples, Paul Kittelson, photograph manipulated in Corel Painter

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”
― Charles Bukowski


Texas Sculpture Garden
Frisco, Texas

Robert Tabak
American (Texas)

“While he sat there he decided he would buy a waterbed. He had always imagined owning a waterbed when he was successful, but now it struck him that getting the bed might invoke the man he wanted to become. You bought a waterbed and so became the sort of man who owned a waterbed.”
― Lisa Moore, Alligator

Alligator, Robert Tabak

Alligator, Robert Tabak

“maybe humans are just the pet alligators that Gd flushed down the toilet”
—- Chuck Palahniuk


“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
― Alain de Botton

Texas Sculpture Garden,
Frisco, Texas

Andrew Rogers

“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terror, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
― Anaïs Nin

Balance, Andrew Rogers

Balance, Andrew Rogers

“You are a beautiful person, Doctor. Clearheaded. Strong. But you seem always to be dragging your heart along the ground. From now on, little by little, you must prepare yourself to face death. If you devote all of your future energy to living, you will not be able to die well. You must begin to shift gears, a little at a time. Living and dying are, in a sense, of equal value.”–Nimit in “Thailand”
― Haruki Murakami, after the quake

“The fact is that nothing is more difficult to believe than the truth; conversely, nothing seduces like the power of lies, the greater the better. It’s only natural, and you will have to find the right balance. Having said that, let me add that this particular old woman hasn’t been collecting only years; she has also collected stories, and none sadder or more terrible than the one she’s about to tell you. You have been at the heart of this story without knowing it until today …”
― Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Midnight Palace

“It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. Obviously those two modes of thought are in some tension. But if you are able to exercise only one of these modes, whichever one it is, you’re in deep trouble.

If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you. You never learn anything new. You become a crotchety old person convinced that nonsense is ruling the world. (There is, of course, much data to support you.) But every now and then, maybe once in a hundred cases, a new idea turns out to be on the mark, valid and wonderful. If you are too much in the habit of being skeptical about everything, you are going to miss or resent it, and either way you will be standing in the way of understanding and progress.

On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones.”
― Carl Sagan

“The great systems that inform the world about the truth and life invariably claim to be absolutely truthful and well-balanced. In reality they are quaking bridges built out of yearning.”
― Peter Høeg, Tales of the Night

What I learned this week, May 24, 2013

Readers’ Poll: The Ten Worst Bands of the Nineties

No surprises at the top: Creed is the worst, then Nickleback, then Limp Bizkit, and then Hanson.

The fifth worst band (remember, this is a reader’s poll) is a bit of a shocker, though.

The Ultimate Spaceship Face-off
A highly speculative search for the fastest ship in science fiction.

What is the fastest? Enterprise, Milennium Falcon, TARDIS, Planet Express Ship, The Heart of Gold, Jupiter 2, Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, or Voyager I? I’m semi-ashamed to say I know all of these ships.

Incredible Reading Rooms Around the World

Take a Look Inside a Tiny Nuclear Reactor

What the State Birds Should Be

Seven cardinals but no hawks? Come on!

The 50 Albums Everyone Needs to Own, 1963-2013

5 Great Books to Read This Summer

I’ve read three of these… have to look for the other two.

Two Years and a Ride to Denton

I’ve now had this WordPress blog up for two years. I jumped in after a friend of mine, Peggy, started hers.

Of course, I’ve done this before… As best as I can tell, back in the 1990s I was somewhere around the thirteenth blogger on the internet – though this was years before the term “blog” was coined. We called them “online journals” or a “digital diary.” I started writing web pages using notepad and posting them in the five megabytes or so that America Online used to give you. I outgrew that and bought a URL and some web space (from what turned out to be the world’s worst online service provider). For well over a decade I wrote something every day. I had to quit when my kids reached high school and too many people I knew in “real life” started reading the thing. Actually, I didn’t quit – I simply went to paper.

Now, this time around… it’s completely different. I don’t write as much in it (my writing addiction is mostly served by fiction now) and do too much photography. But it is what it is.
Two Years
773 posts
Days missed – none.

At any rate…

A few weeks ago, Candy and I went up to Denton for the Arts and Jazz festival. The last time we went, a couple years ago, it was way too crowded and we had a tough time parking… so this time, we decided to go earlier and to ride the Denton County Transit Authority A-Train up to Denton. This was a great idea – the train ride was fun and the festival was cool – we headed back before the crowds really began to build.

Denton is a cool city. To a big extent, it is a college town, almost like Austin-lite. I enjoyed the pedestrian and bike-friendly areas around the town square and decided I wanted to go back there with my bicycle.

Looking at Google Maps, I noticed the telltale green line that represented a hike-bike trail that ran from Lake Dallas through Corinth up to Denton – a little more than eight miles. It paralleled the A-Train tracks and I was able to get a good look at it from the train windows. It’s called the Denton Katy Trail – and it looked like a nice bike ride.

So, one Sunday that promised nice weather (and light winds) I decided to pack my camera, drive to Lake Dallas with my road bike and head up the trail to Denton. There, I would wander around a bit, take some photos, and then ride back down.

The start of the Denton Katy trail off of Swisher Road, in Lake Dallas.

The start of the Denton Katy trail off of Swisher Road, in Lake Dallas.

The trail was nice – really nice. There is a great feeling of booking along fresh, smooth, level concrete. Not very many people using it – a few walkers from the suburban neighborhoods… I only saw one or two other bicycles. Still, it was fun and an enjoyable ride. Until…

The trail ended.

The sudden end of the Denton Katy Trail

The sudden end of the Denton Katy Trail

Along the south side of Denton is a loop expressway, the 288 and the trail stopped there. They are building a big new pedestrian bridge over the expressway, and it looks finished… but isn’t.

Now, I know that the bridge is expensive and is being built with the best of intentions. That highway is a barrier – though not an insurmountable one. They do have several intersections with lights – you can cross easily if you wait for a green. Once the bridge is finished, bicyclists and walkers can bypass the highway, walking up and over.

The pedestrian/bicycle bridge over 288 in Denton. It will be nice when it is finished.

The pedestrian/bicycle bridge over 288 in Denton. It will be nice when it is finished.

And that’s the problem. In separating the bike/pedestrians from the city, you make the trail into a recreational opportunity and take away the integration of human-powered transportation with the life of the city.

Presented with the closed trail, I considered turning around and heading back, but I wanted to get to downtown Denton. I walked my bike through a bit of thick woods lined with empty wine bottles and found myself in back of a huge Big-Box store of some kind. That area all along 288 is a massive expanse of auto-oriented shopping hell, with every chain store imaginable. No sidewalks, no way through, acres and acres of tarmac covered with clouds of exhaust fumes. Not a fun place to fight through on a bicycle.

This is what I am talking about. They can spend millions on a bridge to bypass the life below, but can't finish the sidewalks. Areas like this are openly hostile to people without cars.

This is what I am talking about. They can spend millions on a bridge to bypass the life below, but can’t finish the sidewalks. Areas like this are openly hostile to people without cars.

The ironic thing is that there were other people trying to walk through there. You would never see them from a car – but they are there… homeless people, young teenagers, poor students – the shadow population, carless by choice or by situation.

Again, I salute the money and effort put into the trail and that impressive bridge, but fear that the people behind this effort don’t understand the idea of making a city where you don’t have to have a car. I don’t think they can even imagine such a thing.

I was able to work my way through the maze of parking lots and fight past the thick streams of tinted-window SUVs and pickups to finally make my way into the old-fashioned heart of Denton… the area around the square and the roads leading out to the universities. There the cars, walkers, and bikes live together, moving a little more slowly, but getting where they need in plenty of time. It’s funny, the part of the city with the most modern, hip lifestyle… the part that everyone is spending millions of dollars trying to emulate… is the oldest, most “outdated” style of a city square surrounded by narrow streets with limited parking.

That’s the part I like.