Short Story Of the Day, Neiman’s (part 2) by Bill Chance

“No, I’m fine… I’ll catch the next train.” As she said this she became aware that drops of blood were running down from her shoulder and dripping off her elbow.

—-Bill Chance, Neiman’s

(click to enlarge)

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#6). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

Read Part 1 Here


Neiman’s (part 2)

“Never mind my name, and that package seems very heavy for a cabbage.”

Apple realized how much effort she was putting into cradling the severed head in the crook of her arm, trying to cover up as much as she could with the remains of the shopping bag.

“Umm it’s very dense, a lot of flavor.”

“Why is it wrapped like that?”

“Valuable, Neiman’s… their Christmas catalog…”

“In Chinese newspapers?”

“It’s exotic, it’s imported.”

“Ma’am, I’m afraid you’re hurt.”

“No, I’m fine… I’ll catch the next train.” As she said this she became aware that drops of blood were running down from her shoulder and dripping off her elbow.

“You’ll have to come with us, come down and make a statement.”

Apple’s mind was drowning in a flood of panic when a sudden noise… a sharp crack echoing down the tunnel… caused all three to turn. With the corner of her eye she saw the homeless guy from the train slide something dark back into his loose-fitting trousers. She looked at him and he gave her a quick wink before he slid behind a tiled column and disappeared.

It was one of Gallo’s men, the homeless-looking guy. Apple didn’t know if she felt relief or horror.

The two cops were suddenly standing by the shopping bag thief and were yelling into their radios. The kid had slumped completely over and a large, dark stain was quickly spreading out from his now-lifeless body.

Apple smelt the ozone of a train pulling in behind her and felt the rush of cool air as the doors opened. She stared straight at the cops who weren’t looking at her at all as she stepped backward into the train, still holding the paper-covered head cradled in the crook of her arm. The door whisked shut and she was gone.

 


This bit of text is mostly from a glob of NaNoWriMo I did (I won that year) several years ago – I don’t think I have posted any of it before. I’m going to rewrite and rework some of it into something a little more self-contained. We’ll see.

Short Story Of the Day, Neiman’s (part 1) by Bill Chance

Which one?… The schoolgirl with her headphones? The businessman with his crossword?… The workman in his grimy t-shirt? Some filthy homeless looking guy was staring right at her.

—-Bill Chance, Neiman’s

DART train at the Plaza of the Americas (click to enlarge)

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#5). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Neiman’s

“A severed head in a shopping bag weighs a lot more than I thought it would,” Apple said to herself. She had lugged the Neiman Marcus bag from Gallo’s limousine to the train and the weight surprised her. She could feel rivulets of sweat pouring across every inch of her skin as the train moved out of the station and the standing riders lurched. Apple jerked as a stray foot bumped against the bag.

“They can’t see it – they don’t know – all I have to do is make the delivery and I’m done,” she repeated over and over – a mantra to calm her shattered nerves. As the train shuddered through each stop she scanned the faces of the other passengers, wondering which ones were members of Gallo’s crew making sure the package is delivered on time. Which one?… The schoolgirl with her headphones? The businessman with his crossword?… The workman in his grimy t-shirt? Some filthy homeless looking guy was staring right at her.

The train accelerated into a tunnel, rocking randomly back and forth, while dim lights flashed past the windows. Apple could still feel the oppressive weight of the horror in the bag against her ankle, and moved a fraction away from it. She was beginning to think she might survive – only three more stops – and the train pulled into the murky concrete cavern of an underground station. As the doors whipped open Abbey saw a kid with a burr haircut, nose ring, and some sort of open sore on the left side of his chin stand up and walk quickly down the aisle. As he passed Apple he dipped and in a quick and fluid motion grabbed the shopping bag and leaped out the door.

Apple didn’t even think as she shoved herself from her seat and grabbed the edge of the closing train doors, forcing them back open, and hurling herself out and down the platform toward the fleeing kid. The shopping bag was swinging wildly in his hand and it slowed him down. It wasn’t very far before Apple hit him like a linebacker – every inch of her muscles straining against the kid – wrapping him up as they tumbled hard to the concrete platform. She looked up to see the kid bent over, on his knees, making little “woof… woof” noises. Apple had skidded across the rough floor – one leg of her slacks was shredded up to her thigh and a patch of blood was soaking through her shirt at the shoulder. She ignored her pain in a panic, scanning around for the bag. It was only a few feet away, torn, with the round contents half rolled out – wrapped in newspaper with a grid pattern of reinforced strapping tape holding it together. She crawled to the package, gathered it in her arms and stood up, only to come face to face with two blue uniformed transit cops.

“Jeez lady… good tackle,” said one.

“It’s alright now, I have my package back,” she said, “I’ll just get going.”

“Just a minute, ma’am, what do you have in that package,” said the other one. He spoke in a serious businesslike monotone. Apple looked at his name tag which said, “Friday.” “Oh, great,” she mumbled to herself.

“Um, it’s a cabbage,” she said.

“You came out of that train and tackled a guy for a cabbage?” asked Friday.

“Come on Joe,” said the other cop, “Don’t give her such a hard time.”

“You’re name is Joe Friday?” asked Apple. “Besides, it’s a valuable cabbage… see,” she pointed to the torn shopping bag, “it’s from Neiman’s.”

 


This bit of text is mostly from a glob of NaNoWriMo I did (I won that year) several years ago – I don’t think I have posted any of it before. I’m going to rewrite and rework some of it into something a little more self-contained. We’ll see.

Utter Violence In Every Inch

“I would like to say to those who think of my pictures as serene, whether in friendship or mere observation, that I have imprisoned the most utter violence in every inch of their surface.”
Mark Rothko

 

Artwork, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Spring Valley Station, Richardson, Texas

 

 

Dallas Area Rapid Transit Spring Valley Station, Richardson, Texas

Warped in the Folds of Time

“Silence. How long it lasted, I couldn’t tell. It might have been five seconds, it might have been a minute. Time wasn’t fixed. It wavered, stretched, shrank. Or was it me that wavered, stretched, and shrank in the silence? I was warped in the folds of time, like a reflection in a fun house mirror.”
Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Bank of America Plaza building reflected in the Hyatt Regency Dallas from the Union Station DART platform, Dallas, Texas

The Inmates Made Jokes About the Chair

“The inmates made jokes about the chair, the way people always make jokes about things that frighten them but can’t be gotten away from.”
Stephen King, The Green Mile

Nic Noblique, Chair No. 3, Anita Harris Phelps Park, Dallas, Texas

There is a mathematical formula (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before) to calculate the number of bicycles you should own.

N = the number of bikes you have

X = the number of bikes you should own

X = N +1

I’m at three right now. One supposed advantage of having three bikes is that if one breaks, you have others that you can ride. This does not work, because of some divine sense of humor, all three will break at the same time.

Last weekend I wanted to ride the train and my bike down to the Design District West of Downtown Dallas for a birthday party for some of my kin at a combination Cidery and Video Game Extravaganza. The tire blew out on my folder the day before and the front wheel on my “road” bike needed truing.

No problem, I’d ride my Commuter/Cargo bike (a converted mountain bike with front and rear racks and fenders) – it weighs a ton, but is comfortable and works well as long as I’m not in a hurry. I took it out and started riding to the train station. I noticed that I was having a bit of trouble pedaling and stopped to take a look. The shift cable housing for the rear derailleur had come apart to pieces and the chain was stuck in high gear.

For a minute I thought about quitting, but really wanted to go for the ride. I have a toolkit that I carry and with a few minutes of work, I had the chain on a more manageable middle gear. I couldn’t shift, but I could move. The route to the Design District was mostly downhill… the only steep uphills I would have would be on the way back. I’d worry about that later.

The commuter tracks in downtown are being replaced, so I was spit out by the train at the east end of the central city. I used Google Maps to find a route through uptown to the American Airlines Center and on under Interstate 35 to the Design District. That’s were I found the nice little unexpected pocket park with the three Nic Noblique sculpture. It was a welcome peaceful spot to rest in the middle of the crazy city.

The trip back was mostly uneventful – without my low gears I did have to walk the bike in two spots – but I have no pride, so that was OK.

When I caught the train (the Blue Line this time) back to Richardson via Garland two women with five kids, including an infant in a stroller, tumbled on and took some seats in front of me. The kids were really hyped up and the women yelled at them constantly. At the Mockingbird station, one of the women suddenly shouted, “This is our stop!”

They herded the kids to the door where the four of them ran out the egress. The two women were maneuvering the stroller around when the door suddenly shut and the train started off. They were still aboard the train and the kids were on the platform. The two women panicked.

“Call the driver, push the red button,” another woman on the train said.

“We need to go back!” they said.

The voice in the metal grill was riddled with static, “This is a train lady, it doesn’t go back.”

I figured I needed to help. “Get off at the next stop, White Rock, and then take the next train back. You’ll be there in twenty minutes. Does your oldest kid have a phone?”

“My battery is dead.”

“Use mine, call him.”

She told the kids to wait on the platform. Then I called the emergency number and asked the police to watch the kids.

“What train do I take back? We’re not from here!” – she was still on the edge of panic.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “There’s only one train on this line – it goes back there.” When we pulled into White Rock another woman made sure they crossed the tracks to catch the train going back the other way. I looked up at the display and one would be there in ten minutes – so I’m sure it was fine.

It was only four miles from the Garland Jupiter station to my house – a lot of spring parties were going on in the yards on that route, I rode through clouds of bar-b-que smoke the whole way. It was nice.

Birth II

“The greatest artist does not have any concept
Which a single piece of marble does not itself contain
Within its excess, though only
A hand that obeys the intellect can discover it.”
Michelangelo Buonarroti, I Sonetti Di Michelangelo: The 78 Sonnets of Michelangelo with Verse Translation

Birth II, by Arthur Williams, Dallas, Texas

Twice over the last decades (2013, and 2019) I have stopped at the Lover’s Lane Red Line DART station to photograph the sculpture there. It’s really cool looking, and hard to find – I imagine it was once more obvious, but the construction of the DART station and the expansion of Central Expressway cut it off. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a plaque or other sign and had no idea who the sculpture was done by or what its name was. It seems to have been neglected over the years, it is getting a bit ragged looking.

Finally, I dug out a book I bought used a long time ago and have found very useful: A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture In Texas by Carol Morris Little. The sculptures are listed by the name of their sculptors (which I did not know) so it took a bit of page-turning, but I found it.

From the book:

Arthur Williams
American, born 1942

Birth II 1983

Abstract, 7′ x 15′ x7′ 8″ ; welded and pressed steel

Location: 6688 North Central Expressway
Funding: Sullivan Corporation

Comments: Sculpture by Arthur Williams appears in public and private collections throughout the United States. In addition to large steel and cast-bronze sculptures, Williams carves alabaster, marble, and wood. This work and his monumental installation in Galveston are from his Birth series.

It’s cool to finally know something about this sculpture – will have to look for its twin the next time I’m in Galveston.

Birth II, Arthur Williams, Dallas, Texas

Lower Pantograph

“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.”
― Nikola Tesla

Signs at one end (downtown) of the Dallas Streetcar

 

I am always looking for “found poetry” – especially on posted signs – these are messages that make sense to the person putting them up – and maybe to the intended viewer – but are utter, strange nonsense (poetry) to the average passer by.

Waiting for the streetcar, I saw the sign “Lower Pantograph Before Departing Stop.Poetry.

It isn’t hard to figure that one out, though. To me, a pantograph is a simple mechanical device consisting of linked rods used to enlarge drawings by hand.

Pantograph Animation

But it has an alternate meaning (at least one). It’s the device on the top of a streetcar used to connect to the overhead wires.

Transport Pantograph

But what does “lower pantograph” mean?

Well, the Dallas Streetcar has one unique property. One mile of its journey is across the Houston Viaduct, which has a historical designation. That means they could not install poles and overhead wires along that stretch of track. The streetcar uses internal batteries for that stretch, charging them with overhead wires the rest of the journey. Therefore, the “Lower Pantograph Before Leaving Stop” and “End Of Wire” warning signs to remind the operator that the vehicle was about have to go on battery power.

I still think it’s poetry.

View from the high point of the Jefferson Viaduct Cycletrack, Trinity River, Dallas, Texas.
The closest bridge is the Houston Viaduct, where the Dallas Streetcar runs. I took this photo in 2012, the whole area looks different now – I’ll have to ride my bike down there the next sunny day and take an updated shot.

As Crazy As Your Conscience Allows

Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.
—-Joseph Campbell

Metal bas-relief in a stairwell at Union Station, Dallas, Texas

There is amazing art all around you, where you least expect it. All you have to do is look.

It was cold and raining tonight as I left the DART train line at Union Station to walk over to the Bishop Arts Streetcar… but I stopped and took a photo of an amazing bas-relief… it looked like aluminum over a concrete wall over a stairwell leading to the underground tunnel under the station platform. It’s an obvious reference to Pegasus – one symbol Dallas uses to refer to itself. I don’t know the history or the artist – will have to do some research.

A Streetcar Named Slothrop

Displaced Person’s Song

If you see a train this evening,
Far away, against the sky,
Lie down in your woolen blanket,
Sleep and let the train go by.

Trains have called us, every midnight,
From a thousand miles away,
Trains that pass through empty cities,
Trains that have no place to stay.

No one drives the locomotive,
No one tends the staring light,
Trains have never needed riders,
Trains belong to bitter night.

Railway stations stand deserted,
Rights-of-way lie clear and cold,
What we left them, trains inherit,
Trains go on, and we grow old.

Let them cry like cheated lovers,
Let their cries find only wind,
Trains are meant for night and ruin,
And we are meant for song and sin.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Dallas Streetcar

 

I enjoyed the initial meeting of the group that was to read Gravity’s Rainbow. My only problem was the distance. The drive, on a Wednesday evening, from my work, across town, fighting traffic all the way and back – was no fun at all. It made me doubt my commitment. Plus, one of my goals for the year was to reduce my (for me) already low driving mileage. A there-and-back-again trip across town every week would add to (maybe double) my driving.

But after thinking about it and then a good consultation of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit website I realized that I could leave from the LBJ/Central DART train station near my work, ride downtown on the Red line, and then after walking a couple short blocks, ride the new Dallas Streetcar across the Trinity River Bottoms to Bishop Arts – only a couple more blocks to my destination – The Wild Detectives.

So that’s what I did – I filled my book bag with my tabbed copy of Gravity’s Rainbow and my copy of Zak Smith’s Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow (for reference and grins) and headed for the station.

LBJ Central DART Train Station, looking at my book while waiting for the train.

The ride was enjoyable – or at least better than fighting the million other cars that are going somewhere at the same time as I was. Something about sitting in a train, relaxed, looking out the window at the miles of cars sitting still, on freeway and cross streets, all the white lights lines up on the left and the red ones on the right.

Woodall Rogers Expressway, Dallas, Texas

The streetcar is pretty cool. It crosses the river where there are no overhead power lines, so it is the first streetcar to rely on batteries to bridge an unelectrified stretch.

The trip isn’t fast – it took an hour each way… mostly spent waiting on a train or streetcar. The walks at each end or between stations weren’t bad at all, though.

Oh, and the discussion was enjoyable and cool. And someone brought banana bread.

The Interior of the Soul

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

View Skyward, near the Pearl/Arts District DART station, Dallas, Texas

And what the same spot looks like from the side:

The Pearl/Arts District DART station, Dallas, Texas