Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Cell Phone by Roger Colby

Modern man, if he dared to be articulate about his concept of heaven, would describe a vision which would look like the biggest department store in the world, showing new things and gadgets, and himself having plenty of money with which to buy them. He would wander around open-mouthed in this heaven of gadgets and commodities, provided only that there were ever more and newer things to buy, and perhaps that his neighbors were just a little less privileged than he.

—-Erich Fromm

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, June 26, 2001 (exactly 20 years ago):


I’m one of the last people in this best of all possible worlds to get a cell phone. I always resisted the idea – thinking it was too much or too far or too expensive. Now I have one and I really like it. It is pretty damn amazing, isn’t it – especially when I can remember when the phone company owned all the phones and only the richest of the rich could even have an extension. I was in college, in Lawrence, when we were one of the first cities to get the modular plugs. I remember when digital dialing seemed pretty cool.

I’ve even downloaded custom ringing songs to my phone from websites. Sometimes I use Dock of the Bay, but usually I use the theme song from Thunderbirds are Go.

Somewhere, I read an article about server farms that said the world was ruled by stocky men carrying cell phones and pagers. I guess that’s me. I have my pager on one pocket and my cell phone on the other. Ready for action, like a wild west gunfighter.

Driving too and from work has its own ritual. I have the little hook where I hang my phone after I remove the belt clip. I plug it into a cord that runs to my cigarette lighter socket. I haven’t seen anyone light a cigarette with one of those in years – now they are simply twelve-volt outlets. I wonder when they will change the name of them and supply them with a plug that doesn’t heat. Our MiniVan has an extra one by the back seat; the kids plug their game boys in to it.

The center console of my car has three different drink-holders. I remove my sunglasses from one and use it to hold the belt clip. My pager goes in the second cup-holder. The third holds my ID badge – which is a technological marvel in itself. Inside the badge is a slim chip. Automatic doors flanked by badge-swipers guard the complex corridors of my workplace. Some places allow me entrance, some don’t. Under the console is a space that barely holds the pack of cassette tapes I listen to on my commute. A British voice intones, “This is the end of cassette nine of The Robber Bride, please fast forward to the end before loading cassette ten.”

My cell phone hangs next to the tape player. The player pops whenever I move from one cell to the next and the phone broadcasts its new location.

Above all this, the crack in my windshield hasn’t been fixed yet. It gets longer and longer.

And today’s flash fiction:

Cell Phone by Roger Colby

What I learned this week, June 25, 2021

My commuter/cargo bike along the Duck Creek Trail. Taking a break while riding a circuit of grocery stores, looking for Banana Ketchup.

The 50-mile trail around Dallas: When White Rock to Trinity Forest will open and why that matters

The 7.5-mile Spine Trail segment will mean that, for the first time, residents south of Interstate 30 “won’t have to use a car to get out of our neighborhoods.”

What Happened When I Told Marie Kondo I Have a Better, Higher-Tech Method of Tidying Up

Throw them away? “By keeping less — documents, folders, files, emails, etc. — you create more space in your life,” Kondo told me. “Though digital clutter is not tangible like clutter in your home, I believe it carries the same weight.”

I don’t agree. Precious memories don’t need to go into dusty photo albums or the trash. They should go online.

I Know the Secret to the Quiet Mind. I Wish I’d Never Learned It.

Of all the injuries we suffered, mine is the worst. My brain injury has shaken my confidence in my own personality, my own existence.

Hey, There’s a Second Brain in Your Gut

Scientists have known for years that there’s a “second brain” of autonomous neurons in your long, winding human digestive tract—but that’s about where their knowledge of the so-called abdominal brain ends.

Recycled Books Denton, Texas

8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year

How much do you read?

For most of my adult life I read maybe five books a year — if I was lucky. I’d read a couple on vacation and I’d always have a few slow burners hanging around the bedside table for months.

And then last year I surprised myself by reading 50 books. This year I’m on pace for 100. I’ve never felt more creatively alive in all areas of my life. I feel more interesting, I feel like a better father, and my writing output has dramatically increased. Amplifying my reading rate has been the domino that’s tipped over a slew of others.

The Damaging Double Standard Behind Intermittent Fasting

Is it “optimization” or an eating disorder?

This Is the Most Bizarre Grammar Rule You Probably Never Heard Of

But I’ve been following it all my life, and so have you.

Pillar and River Bottoms

“She didn’t need to understand the meaning of life; it was enough to find someone who did, and then fall asleep in his arms and sleep as a child sleeps, knowing that someone stronger than you is protecting you from all evil and all danger”
― Paulo Coelho, Brida

View from the pedestrian bridge down to the Trinity river bottoms, Margaret McDermott Bridge, Dallas, Texas

Cable Dampers

“When you want to know how things really work, study them when they’re coming apart.”
― William Gibson, Zero History

Cable anchor and damper on the Margaret McDermott Bridge, Dallas, Texas

One reason I was so excited about the final opening of the bike/pedestrian lanes on the Margaret McDermott Bridge is the long, sad, awful story of its construction.

To make a long story short, to save a little money, the city skipped some engineering testing on some elements of the bridge – which had been greatly modified to save money already. Once the thing was finished, several cable anchors cracked in the high winds that are common in Texas. There was an orgy of blame and recrimination and I really thought that the bike part of the bridge would never open.

Finally, the city decided to pony up seven million dollars or so for repairs and try to claw that money back later.

So when I crossed that bridge for the first time I took a look at the cable anchors to see what was done. There wasn’t much that was all that obvious.

Here’s a photo of the original cable anchors:

Image from Dallas Morning News

So it looks like the rod connecting the cable to the bridge is a bit thicker. The big difference seems to be the addition of cable dampers – which are (I guess) the funny looking barbell-looking things mounted to the cables right above the anchors.

They look kind of cool – but it’s hard to believe that these little things are keeping a two hundred million dollar bridge from falling down.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Accident by Dave Eggers

“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

(click to enlarge) Invasion car show Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, August 9, 1999:

Slip Slidin’ Away

Sometimes, when you least expect it, you discover a moment of… if not beauty or wonder, at least amusement.

Today I drove home fighting through the hot afternoon rush hour traffic. I stopped as a light snapped yellow then red. It was a new light, on a T-Shaped intersection right north of where the road arches up and over Interstate 30.

I bent forward and fooled with the radio buttons, settling on some Brahms, something relaxing to help me live through the drive. So I missed it. Some guy had come into the T at such a rate of speed, making his left turn, that he spun his car completely around, and was now sitting completely sideways across all three lanes of traffic.

He had a nondescript small black car, an amateur spraycan paint job, no gloss, small dents all along the fenders. Drunk dents we used to call these. His entire back seat was covered by a sheet of unfinished plywood pierced by giant speakers. I had a good look at him, his window was down, his A/C must have been busted. The guy looked to be in his late twenties, baseball cap on backwards, dirty unkempt long mullet hair, big cheap earring. His expression was somehow simultaneously sheepish, stupid, and cocky.

My light turned green but we had to wait while the idiot managed to maneuver his car back and forth until he was pointing in more or less the right direction.

The amusing part was that, in addition to nobody getting hurt, right when he had is straightened out, a cop shot around me on the shoulder, lights flashing, and nailed him. I grin a little thinking of the reckless driving citation Mr. Speed Racer now has to deal with.

And today’s flash fiction:

Accident by Dave Eggers

My Bike on the Bridge

“People will pay any price for motion. They will even work for it. Look at bicycles.”
― William Faulkner, The Reivers

My bike – Vintage 1987 Cannondale ST600 Touring Bike.

On the Margaret McDermott bridge bike/pedestrian path, over the Trinity River, Dallas, Texas

Cannondale 1987 brochure

Sunday Snippet, Red Line Scofflaw by Bill Chance

“My heart is warm with the friends I make,

And better friends I’ll not be knowing,

Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,

No matter where it’s going.”

― Edna St. Vincent Millay, The Selected Poetry

(click to enlarge)

Red Line Scofflaw

As I was standing at the kiosk

(I had had to walk back to the car to get four quarters from the little holder thing that folds down between the front bucket seats as I only had a single dollar bill plus two tens – and I didn’t want to shove a ten in the machine – who knows what would happen then)

with my dollar bill and four quarters

trying to figure which buttons to push

and where the coins slot was

the train pulled up.

It was Sunday and who knows when the next train will come

So I boarded quickly, without my ticket

I’m a scofflaw

They warn you never to ride the trains without a ticket

one hundred fifty dollar fine.

I clutched my dollar and my four quarters in my hand

So I would have an excuse for the

transit police

if they came down the aisle checking

for tickets

I’ve ridden the train a lot

and never seen the transit police

check for tickets

Though I’ve seen their cars

leaving donut shops

parked in the parking lots

sleeping man in the front

There is a kid

sitting across from me

working on his very short hair

with a big comb

looking at

his reflection in the window

above his head is a poster

bright purple with white letters

it says:

Poetry in Motion

The poem on the poster is:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

William Carlos Williams (1963)

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, A Lake Upon a Lake by Benjamin Niespodziany

“The lake of my mind, unbroken by oars, heaves placidly and soon sinks into an oily somnolence.’ That will be useful.”

― Virginia Woolf, The Waves

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

And today’s flash fiction:

A Lake Upon a Lake by Benjamin Niespodziany

from Claw & Blossom

Benjamin Niespodziany Twitter

Benjamin Niespodziany Blog

What I learned this week, Jun 18, 2021

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

What We Really Lose When Highways Destroy Historic Neighborhoods

A few old news reports about Deep Ellum in the late 1960s unintentionally document the huge costs of highway-driven demolition.

Employees/Artists from Orr-Reed Wrecking. Her T-Shirt says, “Show Us Your Junk,” which is their motto.

4 Ways to Cut Dow Your Stuff Without Going Insane

You may not be a capital-H hoarder, but chances are you’ve got more stuff packed away than you really know what to do with. If it’s time to reduce the clutter, start here.

Running of the Bulls, New Orleans, Louisiana

Trying to Lose Weight? Here’s Why Strength Training Is as Important as Cardio

Don’t spend all your energy on the treadmill if you’re trying to drop a pants size. Strength training is an important way to boost your weight loss. Here’s why—and how.

Resistance training: here’s why it’s so effective for weight loss

The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five

Research shows that five work hours a day can improve productivity and bolster wellbeing. There’s only one thing holding companies back

Future Generations, by William Zorach, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

How Low Can America’s Birth Rate Go Before It’s A Problem?

Earth’s core is growing ‘lopsided’ and scientists don’t know why


“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”
― Charles Dickens

Near Main Street Garden Park, Dallas, Texas

I was starting off on my drive to work, having made one turn… my drive crossed the walking path that runs along the creek behind my house. This trail is crowded at dawn, mostly dog-walkers but quite a few exercisers, some wanderers, skateboards, unicycles, cyclists, and stray coyotes returning to their lairs. All are out trying to get in some perambulation in the relative cool of the morning before the killer Texas sun rises too high in the sky.

A little bit past the trail crossing I slowed to let a man cross in front of me. He had a leash in one hand and a plastic poop bag in the other – the bag swung to and fro, indicating its possession of a cargo of (presumably canine) shit.

But he had no dog. A leash and a bag of poop, but no pet. What the hell?

Maybe his long term pet had passed away and he still went out every morning for a walk, carrying a leash and a precious, saved crappy souvenir to remind him of his dear departed pooch. Maybe not.

I didn’t stop and ask.