Sunday Snippet, Poem, the wind bottle by Bill Chance

“A little muzhik was working on the railroad, mumbling in his beard.

And the candle by which she had read the book that was filled with fears, with deceptions, with anguish, and with evil, flared up with greater brightness than she had ever known, revealing to her all that before was in darkness, then flickered, grew faint, and went out forever.”

― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Civitas, Audrey Flack, 1988, Patinated and gilded bronze with cast glass flame and attached marble base, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

the wind bottle

The candle wax drips down
the wine bottle
wine and spaghetti
fuel
lighted matches
spent, still
smoke on the tabletop

The smell
Grandma and her doilies
light and fire
hot
Watch the kid burn himself

I blow
and watch the smoke
the darkness stringing streaming out

Short Story of the Day, Stone Animals by Kelly Link

“This is the list you carry in your pocket, of the things you plan to say to Kay, when you find him, if you find him:

  1. I’m sorry that I forgot to water your ferns while you were away that time.
  2. When you said that I reminded you of your mother, was that a good thing?
  3. I never really liked your friends all that much.
  4. None of my friends ever really liked you.
  5. Do you remember when the cat ran away, and I cried and cried and made you put up posters, and she never came back? I wasn’t crying because she didn’t come back. I was crying because I’d taken her to the woods, and I was scared she’d come back and tell you what I’d done, but I guess a wolf got her, or something. She never liked me anyway.
  6. I never liked your mother.
  7. After you left, I didn’t water your plants on purpose. They’re all dead.
  8. Goodbye.
  9. Were you ever really in love with me?
  10. Was I good in bed, or just average?
  11. What exactly did you mean, when you said that it was fine that I had put on a little weight, that you thought I was even more beautiful, that I should go ahead and eat as much as I wanted, but when I weighed myself on the bathroom scale, I was exactly the same weight as before, I hadn’t gained a single pound?
  12. So all those times, I’m being honest here, every single time, and anyway I don’t care if you don’t believe me, I faked every orgasm you ever thought I had. Women can do that, you know. You never made me come, not even once.
  13. So maybe I’m an idiot, but I used to be in love with you.
  14. I slept with some guy, I didn’t mean to, it just kind of happened. Is that how it was with you? Not that I’m making any apologies, or that I’d accept yours, I just want to know.
  15. My feet hurt, and it’s all your fault.
  16. I mean it this time, goodbye.”
    ― Kelly Link, Stranger Things Happen

Design District Dallas, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Friday, October 09, 1998

The best food ends in “O”

At lunch today I was off to buy groceries at the Hyperbolic Market (Shopping From Hell!!) before it became overcrowded. As I pulled out of the parking lot my pager went off, belt bee notifying me of incoming voicemail. I was pretty sure it was not business and considered going back to get the call, but I decided that I’d better get my errand run, I’d call back a little later.

We’re having guests this weekend. I bought tomatillos, cilantro, jalepenos (the recipe calls for habaneros, but they were three dollars for a few orange lumps in a little plastic tray and covered with red warning labels saying stuff like “Danger, these are the hottest things in the universe, do NOT EAT, wear thick rubber gloves when handling, wash hands thoroughly before taking a leak, For God’s Sake!”, so I chickened out and bought jalepenos instead) and mangos.

Fresh food, tropical food, food ending in “O.”

I’ve been trying to spend some time in the middle of the day, every work day, with my office door closed. I’ll sit there and daydream, listen to a little Mozart, maybe talk on the phone, anything to take my mind away for awhile.

The Others are starting to put this down. One guy knocked, asking me paperwork questions when I opened my door. Immediately others lined up behind him, needing favors or answers or only to unload. It was actually kind of funny, my thoughts were elsewhere and I was no good at all to anybody.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

I have been a fan of Kelly Link for years – ever since her amazing and very odd book of stories – modern day adult fairy tales – Stranger Things Happen was listed as a Times magazine best book of the year. I was happy to find this story from her follow-up collection Magic for Beginners.

Stone Animals by Kelly Link

from Electric Lit

Kelly Link Homepage

Sunday Snippet, Poem, Warm Water by Bill Chance

“You love me. You ignore me. You save my life, then you cook my mother into soap.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Dallas Arboretum

Warm Water

Complex salts
and surfactants
change the surface tension
make the water smoother
One end loves water
the other oil
The molecules line up, sticking one end in
the other out.
billions and billions in line
to make one tiny
bubble
one unit
of foam.

I know too much
that there isn’t much difference
a chain here
a conjugated double bond
a COOH group there
between lilac
(bath soap)
and the stench of death

maybe that’s the point

Sunday Snippet, Poem, Dust Crew by Bill Chance

“All happiness depends on courage and work.”

― Honoré de Balzac

Heat
Heat

Dust Crew

Six men sleep is a star pattern
feet, boots in against the tree
heads out
the only way
to pull a little shade from the mesquite
tree, thin green lacy thing
hats pulled down over eyes

What rough dreams stream
from such meager shelter?

A pickup brakes up
throwing dust
dirt stringing streaming out
brims tilt for a peek

Everyone jumps
at the boss
OK, off yer asses, y’all’s ten minutes up!”
one yells
in a futile excuse

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, She Titles the Email “Things are Moving Along” by Caitlin Scarano

“i made myself a snowball

As perfect as can be.

I thought I’d keep it as a pet,

And let it sleep with me.

I made it some pajamas

And a pillow for it’s head.

Then last night it ran away,

But first – It wet the bed.”

― Shel Silverstein

Cedars Open Studios 1805 Clarence Street Dallas, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, August 23, 1998

hold the chicken

I had big plans for today. I wanted to get up extra early and go bike riding downtown. I wanted to spend several hours writing. I wanted to start on the garage enclosure project. I didn’t do any of that.

It was tough pulling myself out of bed. Tired and sore, I flopped around the house, getting nothing done. I couldn’t even get up enough energy to scrub out K’nex and Mortimer’s (pronounced More-Timer) aquarium, and I feel bad about that. They do seem to perk up when I clean their little world.

Before I even knew what hit me, it was early afternoon and the kids had a birthday party to go to. Our Sunday volleyball games were scheduled for today too, so the plan was for me to make a token appearance at the birthday party (held at KidsQuest, a local park) and then head out to our friend’s house with some food.

When I showed up, though, the kids had other plans. There is a little triangle of dense woods and it was insisted by the under-ten set that I take them all on a hike through the trees. So I did. Rambling down the rough trails with a dozen little ones. The copse is usually thick and green, cool and humid, but the summer drought has taken its toll. The trees have lost most of their leaves and what is left is droopy and thin, the trails are wide and dry-packed.

We looped around through the faux wilderness for awhile and then I returned them all to the party and slipped off during the Opening of the Gifts.

It was fun to play volleyball again, we haven’t been able to get it in for several weeks. It was too hot, of course, and there was no breeze, and with the school year here, we all had to go home early, so we didn’t play as many games as usual. That’s fine, maybe I’ll be able to type this week, the last time I hurt my hands and arms enough to pain me for ten days.

Now it’s late, the TV’s on. I was going to write an entry about how I didn’t get anything done today, but I guess, looking back, I actually did something. Still, I sit here, the specter of the upcoming work week bearing down, I wish I had more time.

…. Right there, I took a pause, Five Easy Pieces is on the tube, Jack Nicholson is badgering the waitress, trying to get toast with his omelet. I love that scene. For all his rebellion, though, he never did get his toast.

It comes to that, doesn’t it. Do you want to rebel, or do you just want to eat some breakfast.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

She Titles the Email “Things are Moving Along” by Caitlin Scarano

from Brevity

Caitlin Scarano Homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Letting Go of the Dream by Pam Walters

“The toaster (lacking real bread) would pretend to make two crispy slices of toast. Or, if the day seemed special in some way, it would toast an imaginary English muffin.”
― Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster

Cook throwing dough at Serious Pizza, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday November 06, 2000

Tropical

I woke up and lay there in bed, in the darkness. Thinking it was time to go to work I craned to look at the clock, but it was only three AM. While I restlessly padded around the dark and quiet house the dog looked at me through half-lidded eyes before he sighed and went back to sleep, convinced I wasn’t up to anything interesting. I tried the TV – they were selling kitchen appliances, loading whole chickens into rotisserie grills. The audience ooohed and aaahed. They couldn’t believe the price.

This wasn’t working so I gulped down a glass of milk and went back to bed. I curled up with stress, worrying about the upcoming workday – things I needed to do and don’t know how I’ll get done. My stomach churned, my palms burned, I tossed and turned.

One stress relieving technique is to have a place in your mind, a place to go, a safe harbor, an imaginary retreat. I have one, modeled on a real place from far away and now long gone.

It’s a simple boat dock, a swimming dock mostly, remembered from my youth on Lake Gatun, in Panama. In my mind I imagine the steep walk down the rough trail through the jungle to the lake. In real life it was rare to walk this without getting bit by a tropical ant or stung by some jungle bee – but in my mind they don’t attack.

The dock is crude, made of pallets and other thrown-away wood, attached to old metal drums. No boat is tied up today – a couple of handmade wooden canoes are upside down, pulled into some thick greenery at the water’s edge. Everything is green; the jungle is alive. There’s a big tree leaning way out with a rope swing. Giant lizards sit in the tree. I pull the rope back and climb with it a little way up the muddy slope – then swing out and drop into the lake.

The water is warm, tropical green, fragrant. I swim on my back out toward the center of the inlet then dive down, holding my breath frog-kicking down until my ears pop. Rising, breaking the surface, I turn and in a few strokes I’m back to the dock, climbing up, and stretching out, resting there for a few minutes.

Of course, this place didn’t really exist exactly like that – my memory has molded it. What did exist is long gone, even the base I lived on has disappeared along with the entire Canal Zone.

In my mind, though, I’m there for a few minutes at least. I smile a little smile.

The alarm clock went off.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

Letting Go of the Dream by Pam Walters

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, War on the Carpet by Bill Chance

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

M41 Walker Bulldog Liberty Park Plano, Texas

War of the Carpet

There is a war occurring on the carpet tonight. An army of Batmans and Gargoyles are advancing from their living room headquarters around the shelving unit and down the hall. Opposing this formidable armed force is an equally menacing horde of Spidermans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Their base is the guest bathroom which they have fortified with overturned plastic tubs, their former abodes. The generals of the two forces are two giants, each hundreds of feet tall in the measurement of these miniature fighters. The two deadly opponents, brothers, provide the strategy, tactics, rules of engagement, motive force, and most important, sound effects. Their parent assumes the role of Florence Nightingale, because every couple of minutes they are brought some wounded soldier whose missing part must be reattached.

The vehicles of these battling hordes are a motley collection. Eighteen wheelers, plastic airplanes, horses, cows, dinosaurs, conveyances of all ages, and of unmatched scales. Even a little space shuttle does its wartime duty. The generals are now calling for the “Secret Weapons” – yelling and running as the big guns are brought out of their hiding places under the couch and behind the toilet. The Batmobile advances toward the Gotterdammerung occurring in the hallway as a model police car leaves the bathroom, some sort of CHIP chip inside is yelling “Call 911” as the miniature siren wails and the LED’s flash.

“Time for SECRET WEAPON NUMBER TWO” comes the new call. Two more giant plastic tubs are overturned revealing two plastic F-14’s – one for each army, one red, one blue. The slaughter is witnessed by a giant dog, who sits in the corner with his slobbery tennis ball, forlornly staring at the generals, trying to get them to play fetch with him (don’t feel bad for the dog, the generals played with him for half an hour earlier, he’d play fetch 24 hours a day if he could).

Suddenly, a break in the carnage! The generals negotiate a sudden truce. After a bribe of bagels and chocolate milk the warriors retire to watch television.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we stayed this way. All we would have to do in Ukraine is send over some Hershey’s and the newest Disney release.

Short Story of the Day, Autobiography, Leaving School by Ann Quin

“The leaves were sun-baked lizards, stirring towards the sea that churned its chain of silver snakes, which would, if given half the chance, coil round, pull him out of this urban setting, vomit him on dry land.”
― Ann Quin, Berg

Renner School House desks.

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, June 8, 2002

Trash

It was getting hot, really sticky and humid, as I walked around the point and stumbled into the mother lode. Working my way south along the shore I hadn’t found much; but here there was a north-facing shore and with the summertime hot southerly Texas wind all these cans and bottles were massed up – blown across Sunset Bay from the popular family picnic spots on the other side. Everything was mixed up in the big round clumps of grass that protect the shore or hidden in the gobs of bright green seaweed – mostly aluminum beer cans plus plastic soda bottles, thin Red Bull cans, and a plastic quart of oil.

I fell into a routine as I worked along the shore. I’d use the grabber-a wooden pole with a little swivel handle that pulled on a thin rod that worked the flimsy pair of plastic-coated jaws on the far end-to grab the cans and bottles and lift them out of the vegetation. I’d line them up on the steep bank, upside down – so the lake liquid inside, brown and green, would drain out. After a few minutes I’d return, pick up the aluminum cans for the blue bag, everything else in the black.

Across the cove I could see a group doing the same thing. They had a long aluminum pole with what looked like a net on the end and a whole swarm of kids running around with trash bags. Two guys in kayaks slid by moving into the thick vegetation of the inner cove itself, looking for floating tires and other crap, I suppose.

The ducks and geese that live there were getting pissed off at all this commotion, after convincing themselves that I didn’t have any stale bread to throw out. The circled and clucked and clacked and gave me the Evil Eye. A mother and five ducklings arced out of a hiding place behind a clump and swam off into a more protected part of the cove. Off to my left was a more open field lined with trees. A photographer was wandering around gazing up into the trees, looking for an artistic shot of the limbs, and eyeing me every now and then. I could tell he had no idea what I was up to. Past him, a couple had set up easels along the treeline of the thick bottomwoods, protected by a stretch of swampy ground. They were painting away, sometimes walking back and forth to see each other’s work. I wanted to work my way over to them and see what they were doing; but the wet ground kept me away. There was plenty of trash where I was anyway.

On past the painters was a colorful clot of balloons arcing over the road at a finish line. Lanes were set up, tables of water bottles, a big yellow elapsed time indicator, and an ambulance – set up and open with oxygen bottles, gurney, and a couple of bored-looking paramedics in blue uniforms. When I first arrived a flashing police car had escorted the winning runner through and now the rest of the race was streaming by.

I’ve always been jealous of runners. Not of how they look, but of the fitness needed to do these races. Even when I was in good shape and riding my bike a lot I couldn’t run. I was a strong swimmer and thought about triathlons (God, that feels like so long ago) but my ankles and feet couldn’t hold up to the running. The constant pain of shinsplints was more than I could take.

An older woman runner went by, her safety-pinned race number flapping in the warm breeze. She was hoofing it as fast as she could with the finish line finally in sight, making a loud guttural huf huf huf as she ran. I turned back to the water and poked at another clump of lake grass that was making a tinkling, metallic sound as the waves washed over it and pulled a goodly mass of cans out from under the blades.

The cleanup was supposed to last until eleven, but it didn’t take me long until both my bags were bulging full. I was getting really overheated – most everybody had worn shorts and T-shirts but I wanted some protection from the nasty trash juices and fetid lake water so I had worn jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. I was spattered with brown mud thrown off when I pulled cans out of the lake – so I guess I had made the right decision. After putting my bulging trash bags (black for trash, blue for recyclables) in the proper spot I walked back north to the Bathhouse Cultural Center where I had parked my car.

A younger guy and his cute girlfriend were walking the other way, carrying trash grabbers like me. Their bags were still stuck in their pockets.
“Having any luck?” I asked.
“Nothing,” the guy said.
“Well, I’ve already been by here,” I said.
“You must have done a good job, there’s no trash left,” his girl said.
“Usually there’s stuff along here in the clumps of grass,” he said,” most people don’t want to get that close to the lake.”
“Keep going,” I said, “Around the point there should be plenty to pick up.”
I felt for the guy; I could tell he felt diminished by the fact that somebody had beat him to his favorite trash spot and cleaned it out before he could get to it.

The second Saturday of each month an organization called For The Love of the Lake sponsors a trash pickup of the lake. I’m going to make that a regular thing for me – I’ve spent so much time at White Rock over the years it’s not too much to give a little back.

I’ll spend my Saturday morning picking up trash. Once you go to school and get a real job – knock yourself out to be successful – whatever the hell that means – you end up doing the stuff that you dedicate your life to avoiding, for fun. You buy a car and spend your leisure time walking, running, or riding a bike. You buy a big house and spend your free time doing yard work, carpentry, or plumbing. I always worried that if I didn’t work hard I’d end up as a janitor – picking up trash.

And now, a short piece of autobiography for today:

Leaving School by Ann Quinn

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Pier by Fernando Sdrigotti

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

― Rachel Carson

Lee walking in the surf at Crystal Beach. I checked my old blog entries – this was December 29, 2002.

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, April 22, 2000

Out of Shape

Daingerfield State Park has a beautiful little lake at its center. The deep forest comes right down to the shore making the water look like a little cup of crystal in the greenery. It is lined with little coves covered in the green disks of lily pads. These were blooming with giant white explosions of water flowers. There is a swimming area marked off with a couple of foam buoys and a wooden platform floating out in the middle of the lake.

It was barely warm enough to swim and we spent a good part of the days sitting on the shore or throwing tennis balls for the Giant Killer Dog, while Nick swam. He would paddle out to the platform and climb up, pace back and forth, shivering in the cool breeze, until he was rested enough to swim back. He is so skinny it hurts sometimes to look at him.

The concession was open for the weekend and they had paddle boats for rent. Somewhere I have a photo album with a picture of a paddle boat I rented as a child. It was an elaborate all-steel affair, two torpedo shaped pontoons, a high bench seat, bicycle style pedals and a chain transmission to a real, visible paddle and a steering wheel. Today, paddle boats aren’t as well made. They are plastic and foam, bright molded-in colors, low-slung, a bent pipe with wooden pedals directly driving a completely enclosed paddle assembly. They are steered with a little pipe sticking up behind the seats.

Still, Nick wanted to rent one, so we paid our seven dollars and put on the ubiquitous red life vests, tattered and moldy-smelling, marked S, M, or L with fading Magic Marker. The boat was a bit too big for him and too small for me, making for inefficient propulsion. I am in such bad shape, my legs burned terribly as soon as we moved away from the dock. I could only paddle for a few minutes before I’d have to give up and take a rest. It took us what seemed like a long time to move across the lake (although we never completely used up our rented hour).

The breeze was light and the lake was even more beautiful from the center. Nicholas said, “Everything is blue or green, the only colors.” He pointed out how tall the forest was, it undulated into the distance, up from the water, and you couldn’t tell where the real hills were or where the trees were simply tending to be taller or shorter. Ducks and geese floated around looking for handouts. Black turtles sunned themselves on logs in the center of the lily pad seas, plopping into the water to swim away, sticking their heads out to peer out at us if we paddled too close.

When we looked down into the calm water with the sun at our backs we could see shafts of yellow and green extending downward, pulsing with the gentle waves. The trick of perspective made the water look miles deep, cold and clean.

Even with my legs burning, the sun heating up the uncomfortable clumsy life jacket, it was a pretty nice way to spend an hour and seven dollars.

When we reached shore, the kids shot some baskets at a hoop above the parking lot and hooted around in the playground for awhile. I examined some immature bald cypress trees growing in the shallow water and decided, for sure, that I was given an incorrect tree for my front yard. It is definitely a pine and not a cypress.

Nick, Candy, and The Giant Killer Dog drove back to the campsite while Lee wanted to walk back with me along the trail – a bit of a shortcut as opposed to the park road.


“Let’s race them!” Lee shouted, and took off along the trail.


It’s true, that in your mind’s eye, you see yourself as you were when you were… maybe sixteen years old. I could see myself running down that trail with Lee. I couldn’t do it. A few hundred yards and I was out of breath, side splitting, slowing to a walk. The MiniVan made it back to the campsite before Lee and I did.

But not by much.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

Pier by Fernando Sdrigotti

from The London Magazine

Fernando Sdrigotti Twitter

Fernando Sdrigotti Instagram

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Scientist by Bill Chance

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
It matters that you don’t just give up.”
― Stephen Hawking

Sign on storefront.

Scientist

Craig walked down the hall past a room full of kids playing video games, one of them asked him, “Are you really a scientist?”
“Yes, I suppose I am.”
“See, I told you,” said Tom, Craig’s son.
“What kind?” asked his friend.
“Well, I’m a chemist… do you know what that means?”
“Nope.”
“Well, I study what happens when you mix things and heat them in certain ways, sort of.”

That’s not a very good answer, he knew. There isn’t a very good way to explain what chemistry is to a kid that doesn’t know what a chemical is. Thinking about it later, Craig should have explained what kind of chemist he was and what his job entailed. He sat down in the TV room to chill for a minute and think about science and what it meant to him.

On the tube was a little documentary. They showed some stuff about Stephen Hawking. Hawking was talking about understanding black holes, the Big Bang, the moment of creation. He talked about grasping the way the universe came into being and said, “and then we will know the mind of God.”

Then, after a commercial break, the documentary changed to a story about a guy that made robots, little six legged guys that imitated life in strange ways. The robot guy said something about robot making maybe being a man thing – men can’t make life, so robots are as close as they get. He discounts that, though, because there are more women than men in his lab.

Craig thought about the creating life thing. Then he thought about Frankenstein. Then about science and knowledge and curiosity.

Creating life isn’t the thing. Any moron can create life. The folks in the trailer park seem to be creating plenty. Or think about a pumpkin seed. Is it alive? Two pumpkin seeds, one live, one not – can you tell the difference?

The important quest isn’t to create life, but to understand it. To somehow know more about the miracle, how it works, where it is going.

That is to know the mind of God.