Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Running of the Bulls, New Orleans

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday July 27, 1997 – Exactly twenty four years ago.

Pissing in the Street

My house is a set of two rectangular blocks. One for the main residence and another, set at right angles, for the garage. Simple, cheap, boring. The only break in the monotony is one corner of the house is missing; a space carved away for the front door. This space also is a cube; a square negative room. We put a little bench there, I’m growing English Ivy up the brick wall side and around the edges on the ground. Crape Myrtles line the west side, bushes line the front. I have been letting the plants grow, trimming them when necessary but mostly letting them find their own way; painting in with green. The Crape Myrtles are now big enough to develop the smooth, curvy bark that is so attractive. I am trying to create a little restful garden spot here; a connection with the outside world.

Late Saturday night I sat out there on the bench to do some writing. I had put in an outlet for Christmas lights, it powered up my laptop so I didn’t have to worry about batteries. It was after midnight and surprisingly warm and muggy. I was sweating through my T-shirt but it was still nice to get out into some more or less fresh air. I expected some peace and quiet out there.

The entire neighborhood is a fractal expansion of my rectangular house. Rectangular lot; rectangular block; rectangular subdivision. It is set on a bias. Parallel to the closest Interstate. All laid out for the maximum profit for the long-bankrupt developer; subject to the sacred call of the auto. The suburb was literally thrown together, get ’em built, get out. Now it is a boring, sleepy village within a city. Full of families (who would live here if they didn’t have kids?). Lawns mowed, identically edged, trees, shrubs, cars, trucks, boats, RV’s.

I expected silence out there. The walls of the house are a powerful barrier; more mental than physical. Within the cocoon, the illusion of suburban life is complete; kitchen (fridge and microwave), couch, TV, (computer) the stops on the limited journey of an illusion of life. The background A/C hum supplies the white noise that destroys any vibrations leaking in from the real world. Simply walking through the door and sitting outside the walls is subversive, against the tenets of American Suburb Family Law.

I expected silence out there. There was a rumble in the distance. The isosceles triangle of Interstate Highways that mark out the area where we live provide a clamor of rubber on concrete, creaking steel, squealing tires, booming horns, the hiss of eighteen wheel compressed air leaving brake cylinders. The call of a race of steel giants racing along; my presence unknown and unimportant; life itself rushing along the asphalt, going to God knows where.

Against this rhythm in the distance the symphony of my neighborhood was completed by the melody and accompaniment of local sounds. Someone was having a hell of a fight. I couldn’t tell where it came from; it sounded like the house directly across, but that house was dark; sound does travel on a calm, warm night. The sounds of battle might be coming from a long way off. Male voices, female voices, maybe six or so in all. Screaming, cussing (I couldn’t pick out individual words, but somehow the shouted obscenities could be identified for what they were), the sound of tinkling glass. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes; then the sound of squealing tires and it ended.

I expected silence out there. A house across my street has some teenage daughters, there are always guys in cars hanging out there at night; like alley cats or dogs in heat. A pickup truck roared down the road and screeched to a halt in front of their house. As the truck rumbled the horn honked on and on. Then it sped off, returning in a couple minutes with another car. The honking resumed. I couldn’t see much, I was screened by the bushes, but I could tell by the sounds that a bunch of people were out milling around. Nobody paid any attention to me as I typed; I’m not sure if they saw me or not but I’m sure that if they looked I was visible, my face lit by the screen on the laptop.

I expected silence out there. I heard a noise, liquid, running. Someone was pissing in the street. It was a lot; I know that kind of a piss, beer piss. Looking out through the leaves all I could see was a bare stomach and chest; young, slim, bejeaned; illuminated bright red from the filtered brakelights of the still idling pickup. The cacophany didn’t lessen with the urinating. I couldn’t tell how many voices were mingled in a melange of obscenities, lies, boasts, teasings, the usual testosterone late night drunken summernight pickup revelry.

The little impromptu party continued. It sure didn’t sound like fun, or sexy, or youthful. It was almost tired, frustrated, even mean. There was some stupid shoving, the house door slammed twice, tinkling of broken glass on the sidewalk, and the vehicles roared away. They circled the block twice and were gone.

I finished my typing and found that Candy had woken up and discovered the front door unlocked. I rooted around in the ivy for a half hour until I found the hiding place for the extra key. I didn’t want to ring the bell, It would wake the kids and scare my wife.

Candy says that all kids hang out like those folks were, it’s harmless. She’s right, of course, twenty-odd years ago I spent more than one night hanging out near some cute-young-thing’s house, drinking beer and boasting. They must be out there a lot; it’s not unusual to find beer cans or brown broken glass in our yard, the Mazda has an extra dent where someone bounced a quart bottle off the hood, a couple times there’s been tire tracks in our yard.

Maybe I’m being an old fuddy-duddy but I’m not entirely at ease with those kids out there, only a few feet and some sheetrock and siding away from my sleeping sons. Or maybe I’m jealous, wishing my days of hanging out weren’t receding so far into the past, that my stomach doesn’t look like the one on the guy pissing in the street.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

from Cheap Pop

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Wave Goodbye by Fanni Sütő

“The very instant I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service; there resides
To make me slave to it.


― William Shakespeare

Shakespeare Sculpture, Dallas Arboretum

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, July 17, 2001 (exactly twenty years ago):

Stuff dreams are made on

I had a long couple days at work so I thought I’d reward myself with an evening of free Shakespeare. Candy was able to make arrangements to help her get all the kids to all the places they needed to go. So I was free to take off.

I stopped by the grocery store and bought a salad from the salad bar (make it yourself, 2.99 a pound, little black plastic bowl with clear lid, plastic silverware that I slipped into my pocket instead of the bowl – to save weight) some yogurt, a Mistic Zotics (Mozambique Marula Fruit), and finally – a bottle of Sobe (pink Lizard Fuel – Strawberry and Banana).

The preplay festivities had the clown-players embarrassing as many folks in the crowd as possible. The high point was when three of them were juggling and a member of the audience walked up, pulled three hackysacks from his pockets and joined in.

Tonight is the Tempest and it starts in a half hour or so. I’m full of food and drowsy now so I think I’ll stretch out on my Barney Blanket and nod off for awhile.

The play begins.

This production has the most important features for a successful Tempest – nasty-lookin’ babes and skimpy outfits.

I like how they do the storm – the chorus whips a green parachute into violent waves while the actors stand up in holes through the fabric.

And today’s flash fiction:

Wave Goodbye by Fanni Sütő

from Selcouth Station

Fanni Sütő

Fanni Sütő homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Stay by Sarah Freligh

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

When you pick a mudbug up – he’ll spread his claws out and try to look as big and as mean as he can. He still looks delicious – no matter how hard he tries.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, September 9, 2002:

Woman in the Dunes

When I was a kid I was fascinated by ant lions. Those are the little bugs that dig pits in the fine, loose sand around the forgotten spots… maybe behind the garage or under the old tree.

They did these perfect conical traps, like a negative volcano, and wait hidden in the bottom ready to snap out with huge pincer jaws and gobble down their unfortunate meal. Dried husks sometimes litter the edges of their lair.

I’d watch an ant or gnat stumble down the slope, slide on the angle of repose, until the ant lion would attack, throwing bits of sand first to confuse and stun, then to grab and eat. I would take a piece of paper or index card and scoop up the sand, the entire area, and blow away the dust until I found the ant lion itself. It was a marvel of tiny death, all jaws and squat, powerful, flicking body.

I would always replace the insect unhurt and watch him begin to construct a new trap, digging the pit by bending and snapping his body – flicking bits of sand away.

I stopped by the video store and rented a Japanese film, Woman in the Dunes. I read the book (by Kobo Abe) decades ago. Actually, I rented the movie once before too, surprised to find in an otherwise pedestrian rental shop. It was a bad copy, though, so bad I could barely make out what was happening.

This time, it has been re-mastered and re-released, clear as a bell. The photography is stunning, incredible black, white, and gray images of sand and human bodies.

It tells the story of a lonely man, wandering the dunes of a forgotten province, looking for insects for his collection. Or maybe, his main purpose is to simply escape the bureaucracy, avoid the avalanche of paperwork, forms, and official stamps that flow across the movie’s credits.

At any rate, he bites off more than he can chew – ends up trapped with a widowed woman in a ramshackle house at the bottom of a wall of sand, trapped, forced to shovel to survive. There is sensuality in the sand, desperation, and resignation.

Do you live to shovel, or shovel to live.”

And today’s flash fiction:

Stay by Sarah Freligh

from Flash Frog

Sarah Freligh homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Amber Night by Jack Barker-Clark

“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.”

― Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, July 4, 1997:

The Fourth and Fireworks

We left the party early, just as the bar-b-que was being trundled out because we had tickets to the Ranger game. It was a great evening; cool weather, a record sellout crowd, and a good game (the home team won seven to six). The only problem was that Lee was a champion wiggleworm; I missed a lot of the game walking him around. He kept trying to kiss some teenage boys in the row in front of us.

After the game was a fireworks display. I knew from years past that the Rangers always put on a good fireworks show, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was a long, loud, impressive display, with the explosions timed to go along with the music played in the ballpark. We watched from the upper level promenade, an open area around the top of the stadium. It was a perfect vantage point.

Nick and Lee had never stuck it out through a fireworks display before. We’d taken them to a couple, but they cried at the noise and we’d had to leave. Now they are bigger, they were nervous before it started, holding their hands over their ears, but once it got going they really thought it was great.

After the game, the fireworks, and the massive traffic jam leaving the ballpark, it was after one when we finally reached home. That is very late for this particular family unit. Yardwork, pool party, baseball, fireworks – about as traditional a holiday as you’ll see. Not very cool , not very punk , not very postmodern . And I don’t care.

And today’s flash fiction:

The Amber Night by Jack Barker-Clark

from No Contact

Jack Barker-Clark Twitter

Jack Barker-Clark homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Poetry is indispensable-if I only knew what for.

—-Jean Cocteau

Music cases and used books… and a bass.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, July 7, 2001 (exactly 20 years ago):

Half Price Poetry

In keeping with my post-mountain-vacation theme of trying to do some fun big-city stuff I sneaked out last night to go to the monthly First Friday poetry reading at the big main Half-Price book store on Northwest Highway. The crowd was a bit smaller than they were the last time I went, maybe because now it’s summer. I was actually able to get a place to sit.

The poetry, as always, was pretty variable in quality. A lot of it is too traditional, too Moon-June for my tastes. I want to hear something wild, emotional, and witty. Still, though, I enjoy going to the readings.

As a matter of fact – I realize that I can’t even hear most of the poetry. I like to sit there and watch the reader and the crowd – the shuffling of papers, the popping of the microphone, the smell of old books, and the taste of coffee.

One thing I did enjoy was when someone came up and read the from the theme song from “Petticoat Junction.”

Come ride that little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Forget about your cares, it is time to relax at the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Lots of curves, you bet, even more when you get to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

….

Well, we’ll soon be leavin’ town
There’s old Charley oilin’ round
Can she make it up the hill
At least to Hooterville
The pressure’s on the rise
Floyd is burning railroad ties
Everybody get inside
Doesn’t cost a cent to ride
Come one and come all and we’ll take that Cannonball to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

And today’s flash fiction (poetry):

Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

“One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls. Wander any graveyard long enough and you will find it – water stained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment. It may be colder than the other gravestones, too, and the name on the stone is all too often impossible to read. If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like fungus itself. If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoul-gate. If the grave wants to make you be somewhere else, that is the ghoul-gate.”

― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Parking Day Main Street Dallas, Texas

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, August 14, 2000

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Triple digits
deadly coughing air
The full moon is a bloated orange
colored by windblown dust
I haven’t had a decent breath in weeks

The heat cracks the dried clay
cracks the calluses on the bottom of my feet
’til they are bleeding and burn in the morning shower

My gardening – if I did it
would consist of gluing brown desiccated leaves
back onto stickly branches
I finally watered my lawn
it smelled of wet hay

I sweat at work so much
I’ll change lab coats
when it soaks through my shirt and coat
the other day I went through four
When I drove home
I can lick my arm
and taste the layer of salt
I taste like a giant potato chip

And today’s flash fiction:

Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

from Claw & Blossom

Clio Velentza Twitter

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):

Gadgets

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

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

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

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Zombies in the Bosque by Becca Yenser

“Things like that happen all the time in this great big world of ours. It’s like taking a boat out on a beautiful lake on a beautiful day and thinking both the sky and the lake are beautiful. So stop eating yourself up alive. Things will go where they’re supposed to go if you just let them take their natural course.”

― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

My Technium on Winfrey Point, White Rock Lake. Dallas, Texas. Look carefully and you can see a guy on a unicycle.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, June 16, 2001 – 20 years ago to the day:

Breeze on the Water

I overslept something terrible today. Actually, I set my alarm for eight; late enough as it is, woke up and puttered around, but then fell back asleep.

I wanted to get some exercise and have been enjoying loading up my new pack and going for walks. By the time I was able to get my shit together it was three in the afternoon and brutal hot. Hiking on a hot summer day is good exercise anyway, so I decided to give it a go.

I drove over to White Rock Lake and since there is all new construction going in around the dam area, went farther north and entered at Emerald Isle, intending to hike down to the dam and back.

My pack was stuffed with as much weight as I could get in there, camera, books, and water bottles mostly. I had my sun hat and safety-glasses style sunglasses on, shorts and hiking boots – I looked plenty stupid and felt it.

They are working on the old road on the entire southeast sector of the lake, building a new, wide asphalt bike and jogging trail. For now, though, it is all torn up. The afternoon was killer hot and the sun scorching. There were very few people out, two women hiking with hydration packs and a scattering of sweating bicyclists, mostly guys, mostly shirtless.

I walked down to the area close to the dam, then walked out on to one of the old wooden piers to sit and rest for a bit. I’m terribly out of shape and the easy walk wasn’t so easy for me. I hesitated for a minute, the jutting, T-shaped dock doesn’t afford any shade and I wondered if I would be better off finding a tree. The green water looked inviting though, and I decided to sit on the end hanging my legs over. The pier is old – the wood gray and weathered, broad, brown nail-heads stick up on little pimples of wood, the area around worn away by sun and water.

It was dead calm but comfortable out there so I sat and read for a while. A fish roiled the surface, going after a bug or something, showing a flash of tan fin and a splash. A duck paraded back and forth. Two soft-shell turtles splashed off their nearby log and floated around, their dark necks and thin heads sticking out of the water, wondering when I would leave so they could get back to their basking spot.

I sat looking lakeward with the sounds of the traffic on Garland road behind me. The roar of rubber on tarmac, the occasional horn, thumping of untuned engines, and the treble chatter of car radios out of open windows. When the traffic let up I could hear the roar of water going over the spillway to my left. The waterfall gave the odd illusion, sitting on the dock above it, that the lake existed as a shelf above the ground; I was looking into the tops of trees and buildings sticking up above the water. In the distance were the geometric towers of downtown.

The water around me was calm, flat, green, and smooth, but looking toward the dam I could see patch of wavelets, glittering, jewel-like. As I watched the patch began to grow and move toward me. Soon, little ripples passed by where I was sitting and then a gust of cooling breeze. The water was then covered with little silver-blue waves, the sun glinting in thousands of fast moving stars off the sides of the water.

The burst of breeze moved on, the water calmed, but for a moment, it was beautiful.

And today’s flash fiction:

Zombies in the Bosque by Becca Yenser

from Lost Balloon

Becca Yenser Twitter

Becca Yenser Home Page