Flash Fiction of the day, Girls Who Eat Bugs, by Kait Leonard

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Louise Bourgeois, Spider, New Orleans

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Monday, November 30, 1998

Arachnophobia

I’m not familiar with phobias. Irrational fear maybe, but to the point of debilitation? not really. I’ve always been afraid of the dentist, but that’s pretty common. I get over it. There was that fear of bad mayonnaise that I had for a while; irrational perhaps, but it didn’t really have any effect on my life.

Poor Lee has developed a horrible fear of insects, especially spiders. He has always been goosey around bugs, but on the camping trip it erupted into full-blown panic. There was a tiny spider in the van on the way back home and Lee completely lost it. I had to concentrate on driving while he jumped out of his seat and started screaming at the top of his lungs.

Today, Candy called me at work on the mobile phone. She was trying to take the kids to a friend’s house to see some new puppies but Lee was standing in the alley, adamant, he was not going to get in the van because he was afraid there were spiders in there. Candy finally managed to get Lee in the van but by then she had lost her temper, Lee was freaked out, everyone was at the end of their ropes. I talked to Candy, tried to calm her down, then had a long, long talk with Lee on the cell phone.

It was no use reasoning with him, his fear is obviously not a rational one. I mostly chatted him up, tried to get him back to normal. He did calm down, agreed to stay in the van, but kept saying things like, “I’ll keep my finger on the seatbelt button so I can get out of my seat if I see a spider.” I’ll have to convince him this wasn’t a good idea, he has to stay in his seat.

I’m not sure what to do. Lee is only six, he will outgrow this, but in the meantime we have to get him through. I did agree to take the van and Candy will drive the kids around in the Taurus. Lee was happy with this, but that means Nick and Lee will sit next to each other in the back seat, and that is like storing dynamite with lit matches.

I think I’ll get a book on collecting bugs, maybe that will help him deal with it. The whole killing jar and pins, and waxed cardboard thing is pretty distasteful, but if it helps Lee get over his phobia quicker, I’ll sacrifice a few insects (even some arachnids) in the cause.

Maybe an ant farm too, all kids like those. Except I’m sure they could break the ant farm playing ball in the house, that would be a scary mess. Better be careful.

And today’s flash fiction –Girls Who Eat Bugs, by Kait Leonard

From Flash Fiction Magazine

Flash Fiction of the day, The Pedestrian, by Ray Bradbury

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
― Ray Bradbury

Walkway on the levee, New Orleans

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Friday, May 25, 2001

Tres Rios

As the evening wore on, I slipped off for a walk. The still, hot, day was cooling off quickly into comfortable spring dusk. The blue sky was decorated with clusters of cumulus clouds smeared out like paint-by-numbers oils in the air. The rivers were noisy with thousands of click-croaking frogs, out for the evening. I couldn’t see them, of course, but I could imagine their throats bulging out like balloons as they sang their little songs. The walk along the three rivers was pleasant, at a level below the main park where all the thousands of recreational vehicles were invisible. Only a few tent campers were down there, with their campfires poring out sweet wood smoke – they had the best spots in the park.

And today’s flash fiction – The Pedestrian, by Ray Bradbury

Flash Fiction of the day, Lightning Strikes, by Rita Riebel Mitchell

The reason lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn’t there the second time.

—-Willie Tyler

Dallas, Texas

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Sunday, November 24, 1996

The weather gets nasty

A tremendous storm blew in last night, the harbinger of our first cold front of the winter. We had high winds, and violent lightning, unusual for this time of the year. About five years ago we were hit by lightning. We had only been in this house a couple of months, Nicholas was an infant, Candy was pregnant with Lee. It was about eleven at night, Candy was asleep, I was out in the living room puttering around when the storm hit. I heard about five crashes of lighting, each one closer than the last. It was, “crash, Crash, CRAsh, CRASH—BOOM!” The last one hit the house. It was odd, I was almost expecting it, the bolts seemed to be zeroing in one us, closer and closer, until finally one hit. The bolt burned out everything electrical in the house (except my old XT which was running at the time), you don’t realize how many light bulbs you have until they all burn out at once. It burned some ducts in the attic, and burned a hole in the roof of Nick’s room above him while he slept (I didn’t tell Candy about that for several days, I knew it would spook her).

Ever since this happened, we have been afraid of lightening, so neither Candy or I slept much last night.

And today’s flash fiction – Lightning Strikes, by Rita Riebel Mitchell

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Rita Riebel Mitchell webpage

Rita Riebel Mitchell twitter

Flash Fiction of the day, Ten Minutes to Impact, by Deepti Nalavade Mahule

“Honestly, if you’re given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don’t say ‘what kind of tea?”

― Neil Gaiman

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Saturday, February 19, 2000

Too much ice cream

Nicholas had a basketball game today. They played an undefeated first place bunch of third grade kids.

The overall tenor was set when one kid showed up with only one shoe. I had noticed the fancy basketball shoes he wears before. I could hear him talking with his dad.
“Are you sure it’s not in your bag?”
“Sure Dad, I checked.”
“He had it out last night to show Aunt Cecilia,” his mother interjected.
“I told you to put it back!”

There it is, he is so proud of his shoes he pulls one out of his bag to show his favorite aunt and then forgets to put it back. His father told him to be sure and put it back without checking it personally, which is a sure disaster, as anyone with children should know. Still, you say out loud, I told you to put it back, knowing how useless and silly it sounds. The trip home to fetch the shoe took ’til halftime.

Then, about halfway through the first quarter another player on Nick’s team stumbled away from the action bent over clutching his gut. The coach and ref walked over to talk to him and suddenly the poor kid started puking all over the court. I was sitting up way high in the bleachers but still was surprised how red the barf was. I found out later that the kid was up all night eating strawberry ice cream; that explains it.

I am amazed at the speed in which a child can go from a laughing, grinning good time to “I don’t feel so good” to spewing vile vomit. It is definitely less time than it takes to pull a car over or to get a kid out of bed and to the bathroom.

They led the kid away but he still managed another good retch right in the path where folks were piling in to watch the girl’s game on the other side of the divided gym. One of the scorekeepers had to be stationed there to warn of the vomit pool and make sure they stepped around it.

The referee and the coach collected some paper towels from somewhere and started some tentative daubing at the mess. The manager of the center disappeared for awhile before returning with a yellow bucket and mop. The three started an inefficient, clumsy attempt at cleaning things up. I was relieved when Candy left the low bench where she was sitting with Lee and properly organized the work.

Men, as a rule, simply don’t deal with puke very well. Blood, they can handle, but not barf. The coach and ref were white as sheets, Nicholas, on the bench had his shirt pulled up over his mouth to stifle the stench. With Candy helping and directing it didn’t take too long before a trashcan was full of paper towels and the court was pristine again.

I saw Lee down on the bench sketching away with his crayons. After the game I checked and was disappointed that he had only drawn some dogs and aliens and hadn’t tried to capture the kid throwing up.

Nick’s team shook off these distractions and played really well. Despite some bad luck shooting they ended up winning 16 to 13.

We stayed awhile to watch the next game, a good friend was playing in it. I told him, “You missed a great game.”
“Who won?”
“Nick’s team did, but that wasn’t the best part.”
“What was that?”
“A kid on Nick’s team ate too much ice cream and puked right on the court.”
“No, you’re kidding… really?”
“Really.”
“Cool!” was his enthusiastic opinion.

And today’s flash fiction – Ten Minutes to Impact, by Deepti Nalavade Mahule

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Deepti Nalavade Mahule webpage

Deepti Nalavade Mahule blog

Flash Fiction of the day, Ded Zeppelin, by Lon Richardson

“Yes,there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

― Led Zeppelin

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Friday, June 18, 1999

Liner Notes

I’ve spent the last two days fighting panic and simply writing about it is too much so I’ll substitute for a real entry by typing in some highlights from the liner notes on my Ironing Board Sam CD.

Ironing Board Sam’s real name is Sammie Moore and he was born in 1939 at Rockhill, S. C. He spent a year-and-a-half in college but had to dropout when he got married….

In 1959, Sam moved to Memphis where he picked up his colorful “nom de disque.” Sam didn’t have the regular legs to support his electric keyboard, so he improvised and used an ironing board. He didn’t like it at first, but he was tagged Ironing Board Sam and it stuck. In fact one of the clubs where he worked gave away a free ironing board on the nights he played.

Sam’s first step toward becoming an “entertainer” occurred in March of 1978 when he made plans to play 500 feet over Jackson Square in a hot air balloon. Sam was going to run cables down to a PA system and an amplifier on the ground while he played up in the clouds. However, after tacking posters up all over New Orleans, the show had to be canceled because it was too windy and the balloon couldn’t be stabilized.

Sam’s next piece of self-promotion involved a 1,500 gallon tank filled with water. He devised a way to play underwater and debuted the show at the 1979 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

“I went on the road with the tank,” said Sam. “But I found out the tank was too big to get into a lot of clubs.”

In 1982, Sam was back in New Orleans but he was still finding it hard to work. At that point he developed yet another novel form of self-promotion.

“People didn’t want to hear live music,” said Sam. They just wanted to play records or the jukebox, I was hurting so I decided to become, “The Human Jukebox.” I built a giant jukebox that I fit into with my keyboard and amplifier. I had slots built into it where people put money when they wanted me to play their request.”

Sam was playing on the streets in the French Quarter for several months when fate stepped in. The producers of “Real People” saw Sam and shot a feature on him that aired nationally. In the mean time though, the police arrested Sam on a noise violation which took him off the streets….

—-Jeff Hannusch, June 1995

I like the record, good, old-fashioned blues. It would be great to be able to sit down with the guy, have a chat. I bet he has some stories to tell.

And today’s flash fiction – Ded Zeppelin, by Lon Richardson

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Flash Fiction of the day, Play Clothes Patricide, by Valerie Hegarty

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

― Albert Einstein

Lee walking in the surf at Crystal Beach. I checked my old blog entries – this was December 29, 2002.
Lee walking in roughly the same spot, fifteen years later. There was no sun and it was very cold and windy. Same ocean, though.

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Friday, August 21, 1998

The seduction of luxury

In the weeks since the timely demise of the Piece-of-Crap Mazda I have been spoiled by the luxury of having two decent, running vehicles in our single family unit (The Mazda, though generally running, really couldn’t be considered decent for the last half a decade).

Usually I’m driving the Taurus and I take great pleasure in the electric windows. I’ve never owned a car with electric windows before, I always considered them simply something else to go wrong. I like them, though. So smooth. So quick. So silent. So effortless……

I was typing these silly thoughts up on the PC in the living room, transcribing from a spiral notebook. Candy was at a party. The kids were playing back in Nick’s room with a friend from next door. They said they were “making a movie” – they didn’t have the CamCorder so it must have been all make believe.

My typing was suddenly interrupted by Nick running down the hall, “Lee hurt himself!” I could hear bloody murder screaming from the room.

Lee had been jumping off the top bunk of the bed and stuck his head into the ceiling fan. Nick’s fan is an imitation fighter plane, frozen in a forever dive stuck through the roof. The triple blades are wide, elliptical and heavy. It had really whacked Lee’s noggin a good one.

By the time I had him settled down, there was a huge lump on the right side of his forehead; it looked the size of a golf ball. I put him onto a bed, gave him his favorite blankets and an ice pack and he calmed down, even to the point of looking sleepy.

I was scared. Not sure of what to do, whether to take him to the emergency room or not, I consulted The Book. Every parent, especially nowadays without extended family around to give bad advice, must have a book on emergency procedures handy. Ours is a tome put out by Consumers Guide, edited by Ira J. Chasnoff, M.D.

The book made me feel a lot better. The basic advice was to look for signs of concussion and if there aren’t any, then simply keep the kid quiet, a doctor isn’t necessary. The book says:

Most children suffer one or more blows to the head at some time during childhood. Typical reactions to head injuries are immediate crying, headache, paleness, vomiting once or twice, a lump or cut at the site of injury, and sleepiness for one or two hours. These are not the signs of a concussion – they are usual reactions to a blow on the head.

So I checked for concussion – the kids said he never lost consciousness, he remembered getting hit, he could walk, he wasn’t confused (no more than usual), no fluid or blood, I shined a light in his eyes to check his pupils. I had to shine the light in my eyes to let him see what I was looking for, “Wow, Dad! Those black spots get Really Small when the light hits ’em!”

And he was fine. I sat beside him, holding some ice cubes folded in a washrag against his lump, for a couple hours watching Cartoon Network. ( Space Ghost Coast to Coast is really funny, by the way). By the time Candy came home he was out in the living room, drawing pictures of Scooby Doo.

And today’s flash fiction – Play Clothes Patricide, by Valerie Hegarty

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Valerie Hegarty Artists Page

Valerie Hegarty Twitter

Flash Fiction of the day, Fugitives, by Deborah Adelman

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne

Collage by James Michael Starr, Carrollton DART station.

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Whataburger

Corpus Christi is the home for Whataburger, the chain of fast-food hamburger joints.

I first ate at one in 1979, in Harlingen, Texas, when my brother and I drove from Kansas to South Padre Island for his spring break. We were spending the night is some bizzaro motel (the chains along the freeway being full, but giving us directions to a more out-of-the way place of lodging) that sported small lizards living in the showers and some man making enormous noise apparently puking in the room next door. Not knowing our way around, we simply drove ’til we found the first place to eat – a typical orange-and-white, A-frame Whataburger.

I remember having a damn good burger (such as it was).

Of course, in the decades since actually moving to and living in the Lone Star State, eating at Whataburger has become commonplace. Their food is old-fashioned and superior to the more national chains (such as it is).

The first night in Corpus Christi, Candy and Nick went out to eat with some teammates, but Lee didn’t want to go. He and I decided to simply walk out of the hotel and look for something to eat on foot.

We walked a few blocks, working our way through the dark streets of downtown Corpus Christi. Lee and I cruised past several seafood joints, a handful of Mexican places, and some bars with loud music pumping out through the smoke and florescent lights.

It wasn’t long before we saw the familiar orange and white A-frame of a Whataburger – and that’s where Lee wanted to eat. It wasn’t any old Whataburger, though, it was the company flagship, a super-delux eating establishment.

Two stories high, with a generous outdoor terrace overlooking the gulf, waiters to bring food to your table (though you still ordered at the counter – they gave out a little plastic number) and even tableside ketchup service (and Whataburger serves Fancy Ketchup).

Lee loved the place. Especially cool was the fact that a clot of teenagers with skateboards was grinding on the metal railing across the street. Lee grinned wide, especially when they’d let out a periodic string of obscenities.

It was nice, Lee and I, sitting out on the terrace, eating our burgers, chatting about the events of the day, enjoying the flawless weather and sweet ocean breezes.

Now that’s the only place Lee will eat. We went back for breakfast every day, and walked over every evening. It’s good when you’re nine to have your own restaurant – your hangout

And today’s flash fiction – Fugitives, by Deborah Adelman

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Flash Fiction of the day, Thoughts on the Train Ride Home, by Hayley Carr

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

― Alan Watts

Bike rider on the DART train.

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Saturday, December 12, 1998

Too Early

Seven o’clock is too early to be at work on a Saturday. Setting that alarm on a Friday night for five the next morning was not a pleasant task.

I had to go in, I really did. We had a training course on some safety related stuff and I was supposed to attend so I could judge if everything was being done properly. I had to take a test, it was impossible for me to concentrate, to think about what I was doing. It was amazing that I passed.

I was home by one and had plenty of things to do. I had big plans, really did. Candy went out to run errands and the kids were being behaved; Lee working on his K’nex and some drawings, Nicholas practicing how to skip rope (he made his own skipping rope from a heavy string, cutting a bunch of drinking straws up and stringing them along the cord) so I stretched out on the couch with a book.

In a blink it was three hours later, I was woozy and my back curled and painful from sleeping on the too short sofa.

Another day, another spin of the world. Another afternoon on the couch.

And today’s flash fiction – Thoughts on the Train Ride Home, by Hayley Carr

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Sales Associate by Henri Feola

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Goldfish Pond, Dallas Arboretum

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, September 08, and Saturday, September 12, 1998

Tuesday, September 08, 1998

Houdini toad

….. After work, I drove to pick up Lee at Nick’s piano lessons and took him home to get ready for soccer practice. I went over to feed K’Nex and Mortimer (pronounced More-Timer) and while I was shaking the live crickets into the aquarium I noticed there was only one toad.

We have had an escape.

I have absolutely no idea how the little bugger managed to get out. I cleaned their little world yesterday and am absolutely sure I put both back in. The lid is held down securely with suction cups and was tight today. Usually they can’t climb the glass of the big cage, but they are always trying, so I suppose he could have made it to the top and somehow jimmied open the clear plastic locking feeding gate.

At any rate, he’s out. So we have the attractive proposition of having a small, colorful, poisonous toad loose in the house somewhere. We are mostly worried that the giant killer dog might find the toad. I’m not sure exactly how toxic these guys are; I hope a moose-sized Labrador Retriever Mix might have a chance of surviving a meal.

I have devised a trap. At first I thought about using some crickets as bait, but on reflection I think that the toad will be more desperate for water than for food (there are plenty of bugs hidden in a house). I’ve set out a plastic box with a plate of distilled water in plain view. We’ll keep the dog in the back bedroom for awhile. Hopefully, tomorrow I find a lil’ green dude sitting in the plate of water.

If not, well, we’ll have to assume he’s escaped the house entirely, met some untimely end, or been abducted by aliens (which to me seems the most likely way he escaped in the first place). We haven’t mentioned anything to Nick or Lee so we’ll be able to sneak off to the pet store and purchase a replacement….

Oh, yeah, if you happen to know us, DO NOT mention this to Nick or Lee or any of their friends. For obvious reasons.

…I hope I can find one that looks enough like the old to fool the kids. Actually, that’ll be easy; green toad, red belly, black spots… they all look alike.

Candy is pretty freaked out at the thought of having an amphibian loose in our happy home. I’m freaked out ’cause I can’t figure out how he did it.

A little green escape artist.

Saturday, September 12, 1998

A runaway returns

….. I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night. Tossing and turning and turning and tossing, I ended up on the couch in the TV room. I kept hearing a noise from the window. A tapping, or maybe a melodious scraping sound coming from the window. My exhaustion muddled mind imagined all sorts of horrible possibilities for this sound; when I’d turn on the lights, there would be nothing there.

Finally I realized that what I was hearing was simply the sound of raindrops hitting the glass. It has been almost four months since it has rained at our house, I had forgotten the sound completely.

Today I was out of sorts, headachy and tired. We ran some errands in the morning (soccer games canceled because of muddy fields) and Candy dropped me off at home while she took the boys to a church carnival. I made an omelet and was sitting on the couch eating, watching “Planet of the Apes” and generally trying to imitate a vegetable when a movement in the kitchen caught my eye.

There he was, hopping across the tile floor, heading out of the kitchen, our missing toad. I guess he’s been hiding behind the cabinets or something; luckily I was there to see him make his run. He was hopping pretty well, seemed no worse for wear for his few days on the lam. I scooped him up before the Giant Killer Dog woke up and deposited him back into the aquarium.

We had to come clean with the kids, had to tell the truth about why there were now three fire bellied toads in there. They weren’t upset at our deception, only happy that we now have three toads.

They decided to call the new one “Runaway.”

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

Sales Associate by Henri Feola

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Ghost by MD Smith IV

“Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.”

― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes

Window Reflection, Dallas Public Library

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Thursday, March 28, 2002

Walking at night

I worked late each day this week to build up enough time to leave early today. I’ll take a day of vacation tomorrow – the kids are out of school for Good Friday. We’ll try to get in a camping trip – taking along one of Nick’s friends and meeting another family with three kids at the campsite – a couple of kids from Nick’s soccer team and some extra brothers and sisters. We didn’t want to drive very far so we decided to go back to Bonham, a small State Park (only twenty or so campsites) that we visited back in October.

The drive out and setting up the camp was uneventful – I’ve finally figured out how to hook up the new popup, work the hitch without an hour or so of cussing and struggling.

We set up and started a big campfire. I showed a kid how to write his name in the air with a glowing stick – shove the end in the fire, down in the red glowing coals (the hottest part) and then flick it around in the dark night of the woods. I know I’ll regret that – kids can’t resist messing with a campfire – they don’t need any encouragement.

As everyone settled down for the night, I left the smells of the campfire to go walking along the road that circles the small lake in the park. One of my favorite things to do when camping is a long walk in the dark. I like to let my eyes get used to the dark and let my ears get used to the subtle sounds of the nocturnal forest. Most of the road was closed to vehicles – metal gates locked across the tarmac (I don’t know why) but I can walk around a gate. With the full moon mostly out, surrounded by a ghostly ring (storms are predicted) and only a few clouds skidding past – it was a nice bright flashlightless stroll. The peaceful quiet was broken by an SUV that roared off the highway spitting gravel and sped around the dark roads for one circuit before squealing back out of the park. Otherwise, it was quiet with branches waving against the sky, slightly rustling as the dark shadow of an owl flew out.

As I reached the far side of the lake, a spot where some low, swampy woods border an open pasture beyond the fence that marks the park boundary a dark shape shuffled across the road ahead of me. I’m not sure what kind of animal it was. A skunk? It looked sort of like a skunk but after I walked past something splashed into the lake with a loud sploosh so maybe it was a beaver or a muskrat or even a nutria.

If I had brought a flashlight I could have shined it on the creature and figured out for sure what it was. I sort of like not knowing, though.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

The Ghost by MD Smith IV

from Flash Fiction Magazine

MD Smith IV Homepage