Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, 4 A.M. Burrito, by Avalon Dziak

Eating a burrito is like eating a living, breathing organism – you can feel the burrito’s ingredients sigh inside with each bite, each squeeze.”

― Gustavo Arellano

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, August 31, 2001 – Exactly twenty years ago. As I look back 20 years ago… I’m coming up close to September 11, 2001.


I’ve been trying,
to work hard in finding the hard truth
in everything.

But what,
could be the hard truth
in a fast food burrito?

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

4 A.M. Burrito, by Avalon Dziak

From Flash Fiction Magazine

New York City Marathon

A Message From Lee

5 years ago, when I committed to running a marathon in all 50 states, I knew that the New York City Marathon would be a jewel to stand out among the rest. To my dismay, I learned that it’s one of the most selective races in the world with less than 3% admitted via the lottery. After 5 years of lottery denials, I’ve finally found a partner with whom to run the marathon with: the Gladney Center for Adoption!

Now, we need YOUR help to run the New York City Marathon together! I am targeted with raising $3k for Gladney by October 15th, 2021 and any donation from you will help us run for miles!

My son is working on raising money for a worthy charity and will run in the New York City Marathon. A good friend of his made the video for him – Isn’t it cool!?

Here’s the link to his fundraiser:

Help Lee run NYC Marathon with Gladney!

Times are tough for everybody, but if you can spare a dime, think about donating. Every bit helps.

Lee’s Instagram

Lee near the finish of the eight mile course. Mardi Gras shirt and Tulane Boxers – worn on the outside.
Running up that hill at the end.

Sunday Snippet, Hummingbird by Bill Chance

“The haft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagles own plumes. We often give our enemies the means of our own destruction.”

― Aesop

Trinity River Audubon Center, Dallas, Texas


There was this old, old guy – he was my neighbor and my landlord. I rented half of a duplex and he lived by himself in the other half and owned the whole thing.

We used to talk in the back. It was a covered carport back there and I set up all of my weight lifting iron under the overhang by the alley. I’d spend a couple hours each day out there jacking steel and he’d waddle up when I was finishing for a chat.

He talked about how his wife and kids were killed in a car accident years ago. He said they had a really nice house but he couldn’t stand living there because it reminded him too much of them. He sold it and bought the duplex, “So that it would bring in a little money.”

I think he bought the duplex because he was lonely. Fine with me, I didn’t mind the chat and the rent was cheap.

The old guy was weird. He kept the yard immaculate. He had this ancient aircraft-carrier sized car that he hardly ever drove. It sat there so long that one day when he decided to drive it to the station and put some gas in it he came back in a panic.

“I’ve forgotten where the gas cap is!” he told me.

I looked at the model and year and went to the internet.

“It’s behind the left rear brake light, the left when you are facing the front. The light swings to the side.”

He was grateful for the help and amazed that I could find that out on my phone.

He was always buying hummingbird feeders and putting them all over the back of his half of the house. Some looked like bulgy flowers, some like bottles, some like dishes. He’d fill them with sugar water or red powdered stuff he bought. He did this for years and never, ever saw a hummingbird. It was crazy.

Then one day, I was pumping iron and he came out all excited. He could barely contain himself.

“I saw one,” he said.

“One what?”

“A hummingbird.”

He died the next day. He collapsed on his front walk going out to get the mail. I was at work, a neighbor saw him. They said he was probably dead before he hit the pavement. I guess it was good he snuffed it out front like that – if he had died in his sleep God knows how long it would have been before anyone would have checked on him. I know I wouldn’t have.

Still, I felt bad. I read about his funeral and thought about going. I was nervous because I figured there would be nobody else there. He always talked about how he had nobody left. Then I decided to go anyway. There was a handful of us… the lawn guy, the neighbor, his lawyer, some strange woman standing off by herself….

It was a graveside service. As they lowered the coffin, we saw it. It was amazing. It was like a cloud or a column of smoke, but multi colored. And it moved on its own. Flowing and pulsing, changing shape, growing round then stretching out. The lawyer said something about “Murmuration.” I had never heard that word before… I thought it had something to do with the sound (now I know better, I Iooked it up) which was more like a high-pitched buzzing that a murmur.

It was on the news, it was in all the papers, someone shot a video and it went viral. There were interviews with experts, professors, zoo people and they all were perplexed. Nobody had ever seen hummingbirds behave like that before. Literally millions of them had come from miles and miles to form that huge cloud.

“I have never seen hummingbirds cooperate in a social way,” one expert said, “Especially when you take into consideration that there were several different species involved.”

None of them made the connection that the birds were in a changing formation, a performance, over the cemetery.

The lawyer told me there was a will and that the old man had left me the duplex. I’ll rent the other side out, and get the lawn guy to keep the landscape up really nice; he gave me his card at the funeral. I went next door and collected all the hummingbird feeders and moved them to my side.

I have to make up barrels of sugar water now. Hundreds of those birds show up every day.

Dave Made a Maze

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”
― Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings

A street in the City of the Dead. Family crypts on the left, wall crypts on the right.

I have been spending way too much time surfing youtube videos. I did see one the other day that was almost useful. It was a list of “twenty weird and cool movies you haven’t seen” or something like that. I had seen most of them. But there was one I had never heard of – “Dave Made a Maze.”

It took some time of searching – but I found a place where I could, almost legitimately, stream it.

And it was good. Not great, but worth the precious time it took. It boasts a crackerjack idea (a failing artist decides to finally finish a project, a labyrinth made of cardboard in his apartment – it is much, much larger on the inside, by the way), some good performances (Meera Rohit Kumbhani stands out) and fantastic art direction (the maze is…. well, amazing).

The premise peters out a bit (the weirdness of the initial premise is not maintained) and the dialog is a bit stilted. All in all though… Worth the trouble of seeking it out.

Sunday Snippet, The Meano Tower by Bill Chance

“My peak? Would I even have one? I hardly had had anything you could call a life. A few ripples. some rises and falls. But that’s it. Almost nothing. Nothing born of nothing. I’d loved and been loved, but I had nothing to show. It was a singularly plain, featureless landscape. I felt like I was in a video game. A surrogate Pacman, crunching blindly through a labyrinth of dotted lines. The only certainty was my death.”

― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Bronze cattle drive, Central Park, Frisco, Texas

The Meano Tower

Theo crawled through another long plastic tube, suspended high in the air. It was too narrow for comfort, designed for people much younger than him. He paused, slowed by something that smelled bad, stale, rank. He wondered what it was until he realized it was him. Theo had been crawling through the maze of tubes and little rooms for so long that he had sweated through his clothes and stunk in the still air of the tubes.

It seemed like a long time ago that he had brought his two kids to the newest craze in children’s amusements, the Nossos Adventure Labyrinth. They paid at the door and were given matching numbered wristbands.

“It’s a safety feature,” the scrawny teenager in a bilious uniform said, “A child can only leave with an adult that has a matching wristband.”

Properly labeled, they all walked through the gigantic cube to the entryway at the center. Theo marveled at the complexity of the overhead mass of interlocking passageways, mesh-sided rooms, and aerial ball-pits that rose high and filled the place. Everything was hung from the ceiling, high above, by thick steel struts. It shook with the weight of children moving through the construction. There was one entrance at the center where kids were pouring through the plastic arch and several exits at the end of brightly colored slides disgorging children, who would run to the center and repeat.

His two kids disappeared into the massive throng and Theo retreated to the “Quiet Room” off to one side. It was glassed-in, elevated, soundproof, and guarded by a sign that said “No Children Allowed.” This was the retreat from the insanity for harrowed parents – Theo realized that this room was the attraction that drew the adults – the ones that paid for everything.

Theo settled into an overstuffed chair, let out a sigh of relief, and began thumbing through a magazine that sat on a side table, “Luxury Yachting.” He knew he would never own a yacht, never even have the opportunity to be on a yacht, but he could dream. His relaxation was interrupted by a loud rapping on the window right next to him. Startled, he realized that his kids, Daevin and Icobod had piled up all the foam exercise pads, climbed on top, and were beating on the window.

Aggravated, Theo walked down the stairs from the Quiet Room and demanded an explanation.

“You need to climb into there with us,” said Daevin.

“We’re scared,” said Icobod.

“The kids say there is something in there,” continued Daeven.

“They call it the Meano Tower,” said Icobod.

“That’s crazy, go back in and play.”

“Please, dad. Come in with us. We’re scared.”

Theo thought for a minute, looked for a sign that said, “No Parents Allowed in the Tubes,” and didn’t find one – so he gave in. He even admitted to himself that it might be a little bit of fun. They never had anything like that when he was a kid. His father with his famous dignity would never stoop to doing something childish like that and if it was something his father wouldn’t do – then it must be worth doing.

He crawled into the entrance and tried to keep up with his two kids as the tunnels rose up and up. There were little mesh-walled rooms with padded floors and Theo would rest in those, catch his breath, while troops of excited kids moved through in different directions.

Other rooms, connected by the plastic tunnels were full of colorful, hollow, plastic balls. The sign out front said, “All Balls Washed Continuously.” He saw how pipes in the bottom of the pits would suck plastic balls out and down through clear tubes to a central machine that sprayed the balls with water in a big transparent hopper, then dry them in a stream of air before sending them back in a second set of tubes to drop down through the ceiling of the ball pit rooms. It was like a giant circulatory system, with clear plastic arteries and veins moving round plastic corpuscles back and forth.

He watched this hypnotic cycle through the mesh of one of the rooms until he realized he had lost his children… or rather they had run off and left him.

Calling their names he worked his way around and across the tangle of spaces, looking for the both of them. He was also looking for one of the plastic slides so he could get down and out – but didn’t have any luck with that either.

Theo had no idea of how long this went on. Finally, the number of other kids that moved through the spaces began to thin out frighteningly fast, until he was practically alone. He yelled out through the mesh of the rooms but nobody seemed to hear him. Finally, the lights went out, leaving Theo in a dim, dark, panic.

He had no idea where his kids had gone. They could not leave without him and his matching wrist band – though the scraggy teenager at the entrance didn’t seem like the most secure of guards. How could they leave him? How could they not miss him? Then he thought of how complex, massive, and high the place was, how loud, and realized one adult, unexpected in the tubes, might easily go unnoticed.

Theo finally stopped in one of the rooms and gave up. His elbows were torn and pained from all the crawling and he was sweaty, hungry, and out of breath. As he sat there, hunched over, he thought about what the kids had said. What was the Meano Tower? Kid’s imaginations are so vivid.

But then he heard the roaring. And it began to get louder, and he feared, closer.

What I learned this week, August 18, 2021

Carnival Valor, Caribbean Sea

Sit all day for work? A simple step can cut your health risk

Take a work break: A small, new study suggests that getting out of your chair every half hour may help improve your blood sugar levels and your overall health.

Striding Figure (RomeI), Thomas Houseago, ydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

How to Adopt the Japanese Approach to Accepting Life’s Challenges, “Ukeireru”

Experts explain how the concept may help you overcome almost anything.

Escaping the Efficiency Trap—and Finding Some Peace of Mind

The more productive we are, the more pressure we feel. It’s time to break the busyness cycle.

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

Here Are the Urban Highways That Deserve to Die

The Congress for New Urbanism once again ranks the most-loathed urban freeways in North America—and makes the case for tearing them down.

Freeways Without Futures

The Organizing Method That’s Gearing Up to Replace KonMari

First there was Marie Kondo, who asked us to only keep things that sparked joy. Then came The Home Edit’s Clea and Joanna, who made arranging our books by color and shopping our pantries officially a thing. So what’s next? Get ready to organize from the inside out.  

Highway 75 at Sunset (click to enlarge)

Mathematicians have solved traffic jams, and they’re begging cities to listen

Most traffic jams are unnecessary, and this deeply irks mathematicians who specialize in traffic flow. They reserve particular vitriol for local transport engineers. “They do not have competencies in the field of system-related increases in traffic performance,” says Alexander Krylatov, a mathematics professor at St. Petersburg University. “If engineers manage to achieve local improvements, after a while the flows rearrange and the same traffic jams appear in other places.” Burn!

What the science actually says about weighted blankets

The concept of a weighted blanket is pretty self-explanatory. They’re blankets stuffed with pellets—usually made of glass or a plastic like polyethylene—and can weigh as much as 25 pounds. You can readily find one online for around $150, though they’re simple enough to make that you can find plenty of DIY guides for making your own at a fraction of that price.

Sunday Snippet, Long Fall by Bill Chance

“I shall remain on Mars and read a book.”

― Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man

Mural, covered by “For Rent” sign Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Long Fall

Elissa told her counselor that she dreamed of falling – dreamed of it all the time.

“I’m falling from a great, great height.”

“Well, dreams of falling are very, very common.”

“I know.”

“Are you afraid?”

“No, of course not. No matter how far I fall in my dream it won’t be nearly as far as I’ve fallen in real life.”

“You’ve fallen in real life? How far?”

“All the way from Mars.”

“Mars? The planet?”

“Yes, it is my home. I slipped and fell one day and kept falling, through the atmosphere, through the millions of miles of empty space, and ended up here, on earth.”

The counselor scribbled pages of mad notes.

I knew Elissa because she hired me to cut her lawn. She said her neighbors had told her to hire someone to cut the lawn and one of them suggested me. I cut a handful of lawns in her neighborhood, but nobody was like her. Not at all. She told me what her counselor asked and what her answer was.

“Why do you see a counselor?” I asked.

“I feel… alienated.”

“Why do you feel alienated?”

“Probably because I’m an alien.”

She would watch me cut the lawn and get down on her hands and knees and look at the sliced ends of the blades of grass.

“Doesn’t it hurt them?”

“No, I don’t think so. Grass – in its natural state – is designed to be snipped off. Animals eat it and then fertilize it in turn. This sort of takes the place of a natural occurrence.”

“We don’t have grass on Mars.”

I asked her why nobody ever saw anybody or any signs of life on the red planet.

“There are rovers there now,” I said.

“I know. It’s a pain in the ass. We are very shy. Even though we live underground, we have to sweep up our footprints in the dust.”

“Are you nervous about the helicopter?”

“It’s not very big. It’s more of a toy. But someday we will have to do something.”

“What will you do?”


That’s as much as Elissa will tell me. I’m only the guy that cuts the lawn, after all.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Death in the Desert, by Connie Cockrell

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Cadillac Ranch, West of Amarillo, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, August 12, 2001 – Exactly twenty years ago.


I had a leisurely day today – an actual quiet morning home with Lee while Candy took Nick to a soccer game. This was the last game of their Classic League Tournament – they won today, but still fell short of making it into the league, they were tied for 21st in the tourney with the top twenty teams going making the grade. I did some errands around the house and then packed, getting ready for a flight to Tucson, where I’ll be most of next week.

I decided to leave for the airport two hours before the flight (I hate having to rush for a plane, plus with the craziness that is DFW airport, you never know) but when I was almost there, Candy called me on the cellphone, she had locked her keys in the MiniVan at a birthday party with the kids. She borrowed a car and sped across the top of the city while I doubled back. We met at a restaurant where I pushed my Van key through the window and immediately headed back to the airport.

I still made it in plenty of time… and the flight was delayed too. The flight was packed, overbooked. It was a shame I had an important early meeting scheduled because they were offering three hundred fifty bucks to bump people, and I was sorely tempted. I’m a good corporate drone, though, so I boarded on time.

They had nice little headphones stuck into the magazine pockets on each seat. The armrests had the music, though the quality was bad. I remember when airline headphones were simply twin transparent plastic tubes that conveyed sound from tiny speakers concealed below holes in the armrests. Now, they looked like quality miniature headphones with a standard plug – inside the black plastic headband, though, was black writing.

Please do not remove from airplane. Will not work with home equipment.

I wonder why (or if) they won’t work with home equipment. The plug sure looks the same. There are left and right channels and a center ground, three connectors. I wonder if they manufacture these with the order of the connectors on the plug different than on home equipment. I considered getting my laptop out and trying the thing out, to see if the airline headphones really truly don’t work. I was too tired and this guy was crammed in to close next to me so I didn’t bother.

I’ve never been to Tucson before, never been to Arizona. Walking from the baggage carousel to the rental car I passed a big Saguaro and realized I’d never seen one of those in real life before, either. I’ve always had a soft spot for cactus and was unexpectedly impressed with the beauty of the giant spiny things, the symbols of the desert.

After the flight, I was groggy leaving the rental lot and missed the turn that curled back to the terminal and main airport entrance. Before I could think about it, I was out in the desert on roads that went who knows where. I would have liked to enjoy the scenery, but it was pitch black, desert night black. I made a couple turns on instinct alone and was very happy to see a stretch of lighted palm trees and then my hotel appear out of nowhere.

I checked in, and fell into the sleep of the dead.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Death in the Desert, by Connie Cockrell

Connie Cockrell Twitter

Connie Cockrell Random Thoughts

What I learned this week, August 11, 2021

Golden Boy, in AT&T Plaza, Dallas, Texas

Is Life Better When You’re Busy?

Why is everybody so busy? Nearly a century ago, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted we’d only work fifteen hours a week. Incomes would grow and so would our free time.

Except that hasn’t happened. Income rose, but we kept working long hours. Why?

One answer is that people like to be busy. This paper argues that people dread idleness and are generally happier when they’re busy than when there’s nothing to do.

Artwork in the Braindead Brewing Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Too Many Jobs Feel Meaningless Because They Are

If work that is of no real value has proliferated, no wonder productivity is stagnant.

The music started at The Free Man.

Classical Music’s Suicide Pact (Part 1)

Classical Music’s Suicide Pact (Part 2)

Classical music is under racial attack. Orchestras and opera companies are said to discriminate against black musicians and composers. The canonical repertoire—the product of a centuries-long tradition of musical expression—is allegedly a function of white supremacy.

Not one leader in the field has defended Western art music against these charges. Their silence is emblematic. Other supposed guardians of Western civilization, whether museum directors, humanities professors, or scientists, have gone AWOL in the face of similar claims, lest they themselves be denounced as racist.

The campaign against classical music is worth examining in some detail, for it reveals the logic that has been turned against nearly every aspect of Western culture over the last year.

Fish on the sidewalk, Governor Nichols Street New Orleans, Louisiana

How to Tie the Strongest Fishing Knot

The insides of pro bowling balls will make your head spin

How to Reheat Fried Chicken So It Tastes Amazing

State Street Gallery, Dallas, Texas

Beat Stress Like a Navy SEAL With This Ridiculously Easy Exercise

Simone Biles and the problem with ‘self-care’

The Olympics showed us how out of fashion resilience has become.


Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows

—-Leonard Cohen, Everybody Knows

Mia Kirshner as Christina in Atom Egoyan’s Exotica

This weekend I had time to sit down and pick a movie from The Criterion Collection. I decided on a film I had seen before – but many years ago and one that I didn’t remember… really… at all. It was Exotica, directed by Atom Egoyan.

I always viewed this film as sort of a bookend to Egoyan’s masterpiece – the fantastic and shattering (and very hard to watch) The Sweet Hereafter. Exotica was made three years before The Sweet Hereafter and contains many of the same themes of survival, guilt, and disaster – but in a different and less focused form.

I don’t think I paid close enough attention the first time I watched it – the movie was very, very good (a notch below The Sweet Hereafter, though the comparison isn’t really fair). Exotica is the name of a strip club where much of the action takes place – though the term and idea of Exotic is one of many themes that soak and permeate the film.

The structure is circular and there are many things that keep reappearing in different ways. Watch for:

  • Handing money to someone (often in a long envelope)
  • One way mirrors (also the murky green glass in the pet store)
  • Parrots
  • The brittle nature of exotic beauty
  • People watching other people, with more than a little bit of threat and danger
  • Contracts, where each person gets a little bit of what they need/want

Be sure and watch until the end. The movie misleads you about what is going on – it plays on your fears and expectations. In the end, it is all explained and the final third of the movie is a fantastic payoff and worth waiting for.

I did a little research about the film – and found an amazingly misleading publicity campaign. It came out roughly at the same time as Showgirls and Striptease… and as it is set in a strip club the movie was billed as another erotic thriller. Look at this trailer:

This trailer is so bad. So bad and misleading I suspect it isn’t a real trailer – someone’s satire.The movie is not exciting or overly sexual, it is a carefully tuned meditation on loss and what it takes to get through disaster and people trying to help each other in any way they can.

Of course, there is the strip club, and the unique and memorable dance by Mia Kershner to a Leonard Cohen song. It actually appears in the film twice (with subtle differences).

So, if you have some time and a decent streaming service – sit down and take a look at Exotica. It may take an open mind and some patience, but it pays off in the end.