Short Story Of the Day – Fire Escape (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Fire Escape, Fort Worth, Texas


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 (#58) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


Fire Escape

Andrew Torremolinos had lived in the apartment for almost three years, yet, until today, he had never been on the fire escape. He said to himself, “I wish I had climbed out here before, it is very nice.” Down the alley, through a gap in one of the surrounding buildings he could see a bit of the slate-gray river beyond and he watched as a tugboat pushed a barge. He could only see a slice of the whole thing as it moved past, but it was beautiful and he had never realized he had a river view from there. The sky was a deep, cloudless blue, and the sun felt warm on the back of his neck. It was quiet and calm, with the whole city spread out at his feet.

Getting out there had been difficult, though. He had lined his kitchen window with little shelves and filled the shelves with houseplants. Andrew’s shoulder stung from the effort in frantically wrenching the panes up. Then he tumbled the shelves while he stepped out, the terra cotta cracking against the old wood floors, potting soil fanning out, the pitiful Geraniums and African Violets naked and thirsty on the kitchen floor flung from their pots. Once outside, he shoved the window back down, catching and crushing a feathery arm of Boston Fern against the sill.

With the window closed, it was suddenly peaceful out on the fire escape. His apartment was very high up, only three floors down from the roof. His windows looked into the highest floor of the building across the narrow alley. Sometimes he would sit at his small table and lwatch the tumult of the big, extended family that lived in the apartment across from him scurrying around their kitchen, preparing meals, and eating together. A large immigrant family from some tropical country – there was always hustle and bustle over there. His mind filled in the loud passionate conversations and spicy exotic odors that must have constantly filled their overcrowded kitchen.

But this afternoon there was only the one old woman home across the alley. Andrew could see her very clearly. She stood motionless at her window, absently still rubbing a plate with a dishrag. She stared at Andrew with an expression of pure horror.

The fire escape was made of thin bars of wrought iron, open and rickety. Carefully, Andrew leaned on the spidery, rusted railing and looked over and down into the alley. The narrow passage far below was empty of human beings though still cluttered with banged-up dumpsters and piles of trash. Turning his head, he saw a cluster of people at the head of the alley, where it dumped out into the street. They looked excited and agitated, pointing and shouting; many were holding a drink in one hand, squinting into the bright daylight.

There was a big, popular bar on the corner of his alley – Andrew figured most of these gawkers had tumbled out and had taken their beverages with them.

Sometimes the bar would have a live band playing into the late night and he could hear bits of the music and sounds of the crowd laughing and yelling. He would lie there and weep at his loneliness as the distant merriment washed over him. He wanted, more than anything else in the world, to go down there and be one of those people, but he could never do it.

His sad reverie was interrupted by a sudden sound behind him. It was a strange high insistent ping that came from the pane of glass in the kitchen window. The ping was followed by a vicious cracking noise and then the tumbling crash as the glass crashed out of the window, breaking and tingling through the iron gaps in the floor of the fire escape at his feet.

The terrific heat inside the apartment had shattered the glass and soon enough, the thick black choking smoke came pouring out, interspersed with tongues of flicking orange flame. The smoke and heat forced him to crouch against the railing of the fire escape and turn away from the building itself. Andrew looked at the people outside of the bar and saw them all running out into the street beyond, scattering around the corner. Some looked back over their shoulders, but most just ran, dropping their drinks as they fled.

The whole building began shaking. Andrew was afraid that the fire escape would be pitched from the building, but it held. A terrific rumbling came from the back end of the alley and Andrew turned his head in time to see the front wall of the entire back half of the building peel away and tumble off into the alley. Thousands of tons of brick and mortar collapsed into a smoking pile in the alley with amazing speed, throwing up a massive cloud of tan dust and black smoke. The building shook and moved and Andrew was sure the whole thing was going down. His fingers bled as he gripped the sharp corners of the iron bars of the railing and he closed his eyes against the caustic grit and burning smoke.

He could feel the building swaying as he braced himself for the collapse that didn’t come. Gradually, the movement stopped and the crashing din was replaced by a strange deafening, high-pitched roar. With tremendous willpower he forced his eyes open and was surprised to find the air relatively clear, the view cleaned out by a sudden unearthly wind sweeping down the alley toward the roaring sound.

Andrew turned his head to look at the sound and was shocked to find the entire back half of the building, starting two apartments down from him completely missing. In the center of the rubble a crater had formed where everything had been thrown back, revealing the cracked concrete foundations. A jagged, hellish hole had appeared and from this ragged maw a massive horrendous blue flame erupted. This powerful incandescent flare was hungry and pulled the air to it and swept away all the smoke and dust, leaving the apocalyptic torch exposed.

The power of this flame seemed to come from Satan himself, jetting up from Hades through the cracked earth and concrete beneath the city. After the shock wore away, however, Andrew was able to figure out what had happened, what he was looking at.

“A gas main, a big one,” he said to himself, “That was the explosion, that was why the fire spread so fast, trapping me out here.”

Andrew realized that he didn’t have much time left. The fire was tearing the apartment building apart. It would collapse in a few more seconds. Again he located the folded iron ladder and felt for the heavy hardened steel chains he had found earlier. Pulling and rattling, he came across the massive rusted lock. It was stamped with the word, “MASTER.”

About a year ago, the apartment building had been plagued by burglars. The windows had been jimmied open, everyone’s valuables gone. The thieves were using the fire ladders. Things were getting really bad, the burglars getting more brazen. They had found some woman alone in her apartment and had beaten her until she was half-dead. There was a real feeling of palpable helplessness and desperation among everyone that lived in the apartments.

Then, suddenly, the burglaries stopped. There was rejoicing and thanks to the building management for “doing what needed to be done.” Now, Andrew realized that they had folded and locked the fire escape ladders – which stopped the thieves from being able to access the windows of the building. It was against the safety codes, but inspectors can be bribed, and something, anything, had to be done to protect the residents.

Andrew squatted and held a section of heavy chain in his hands and pulled, pulled as hard as he could, pulled for his life. He pulled until his fingers became slippery with blood. The blood dripped onto the iron bars, sizzling and burning away as the fire escape became heated from flames flicking up from below. He strained against the steel and the pain, roaring and screaming as he pulled. He screamed louder and louder, screaming until he hoped he could drown out the roaring gas flame, and force the fire back to hell with his sound and fury. It was not enough.

He collapsed, exhausted onto the hot iron floor. His clothes began to smolder from the heat. The flames were pouring out the window now in a hellish flood and he had to get away from them. The only way to go was out.

He struggled over the railing, until he was facing outward, suspended over empty space. He saw the old woman in the apartment across the alley still standing at the window. With the narrow alley, the width of the fire escape, and the distance he was cantilevered out, she was surprisingly close.

Andrew held on as long as he could. His fingers began to crack with the heat of the flames that were growing stronger as he grew weaker. The building began to shake again, grumbling in its death throes. Andrew looked straight into the eyes of the woman across the way. He wondered what she was thinking, what she would tell her family when they returned home, what she would say about the poor, horrible, helpless man she saw burned to death in the fire across the alley.

As he looked into her eyes he thought he saw her nod, just a little. Something about this nod helped to calm him, and his fear and pain unexpectedly melted away. He was a split second away from releasing his grip when he heard a loud clang next to him. It was a long aluminum ladder and it carried a huge man wrapped in silver.

The man grabbed Andrew like a preternatural bear and pulled. Then they were dropping, dropping fast through the smoke and fire, but not falling.

When he woke in the hospital he was in terrible pain. He never imagined that such pain could exist or that it could last for so long.

He once heard a burn victim say in a film that recovery was so difficult that he wished he had perished. Andrew Torremolinos didn’t though. The rest of his life he would look at the scars on his hands and think of that giant silver man, that fireman in a heat resistant suit, and know it as the best moment, the first moment, of his life.

 

 

Short Story Of the Day – Security System (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”
Erica Jong, Fear of Flying

(click to enlarge)
Invasion car show
Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

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 (#51) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Security System

Dr. Worthy paid fifteen hundred dollars extra for the security package on the silver Lexus SUV. The salesman had assured him that,”Nobody, but nobody, will ever be able to get into this thing without the keys, no matter how hard they try.”

Now Dr. Worthy was standing in the sweltering parking lot with his wife, Samantha, his son James – looking as bored and angry as ever, Samantha’s sister Amy and her new boyfriend, What’s-his-name, and the giant double baby stroller with Amy’s two year old daughter and her infant son… and all Worthy could do was check all his pockets, the usual four plus the big deep cargo caves on his thighs with their nylon snaps, and the secret hidden money pouch built into the waistband of his tailored two hundred dollar shorts – and there, like the other dozen times he checked, there were no keys.

His wife never carried keys to his Lexus and his son would sure like to, but Dr. Worthy would no more allow that… how could he trust… and there they were, in the parking lot.

“Call the dealership,”His wife said.

“They’re not open on Sunday.”

“Shit! Dad.”

“Don’t use that language with me.”

“I’ll go find a brick,” said What’s-his-name.

“God no, and that won’t help start it.”

“Oh yeah,” Dr. Worthy swore that What’s-his-name looked disappointed – like smashing a window on that Lexus – worth what that loser must make in a year – would be the high point of his day.

“Y’all locked out?” Dr. Worthy looked up from going through his pockets again to see two skateboarders standing beside the group. They both wore torn denim cutoffs, t-shirts, and had long scraggly hair. One was darker than the other, but otherwise they might be twins.

“I can pick the lock for you,” said one of the skateboarders.

“Oh no you can’t, I paid for an extra security package,” said Dr. Worthy. “Beside, I’d have to start it.”

“I can hot wire it for you,” said the skateboarder.

“I doubt it… but if you could, how much do I have to pay you?”

The two kids laughed. One said, “Naw, we don’t want any money. We’re not poor. We look like this because we want to.”

The other one spoke up, “Tell you what… there is something.”

“What?”

“Let me kiss your wife.”

Dr. Worthy felt his blood starting to boil, “You asshole! Where do you….”

Samantha spoke up, “It’s OK. It’s getting really hot. The baby is getting flushed.”

“Well,” Dr Worthy said, “You’re not going to be able to do it anyway.”

Without a word the skateboarder started looking around on the ground.

“Ah,” he said, lifting up a stray piece of rusty wire, “This will work fine.”

He went to the keyhole in the door and started fishing around.

Dr. Worthy said, “Be careful! If you damage…”

And there was a soft “pop” and the door swung open.

With a wry smile the skateboarder leaned over and started yanking at wires under the steering column.

“Hey, mister come here, I’ll show you,” he said over his shoulder after a few minutes of fiddling.

“These two wires, yellow and green, put them together,” the engine roared into life. “To start the car. Then these two, white and black, pull them apart to kill it.” He tugged them away from each other and the engine died. “Yellow and green together to start, black and white apart to kill. Easy peasy! Got it?”

“Yes, I do,” said Dr. Worthy. He didn’t sound grateful. “Upgraded security my ass! That damn dealer sold me a grand and a half of crap. OK, everyone pile in except Samantha. I don’t want anyone else to see this.”

“HaHa, don’t worry,” said the skateboarder. “I’m not going to smooch your wife. I was just yanking your chain.” The two were still laughing as they dropped their boards and scooted off down the sidewalk.

“Well, at least we can go home now,” said What’s-his-name once they were all settled in the SUV. Dr. Worthy bent over, and pressed the wires together and the car started right up.

“Yeah, we can go home now,” he said. He looked over at his wife in the seat next to him. “What’s your problem,” he said to her.

She looked disappointed.

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), The Convenient Straw Hole by Bill Chance

It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing. And there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it, right? And this bag was just… dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember…I need to remember. Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world I feel like I can’t take it…and my heart is going to cave in.

—- Alan Ball, from American Beauty

Campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

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 (#24). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


The Convenient Straw Hole

The dreams were just there a split second ago. But they fly away too fast to even get a glimpse, let alone remember. I wake slowly, painfully. Getting old is not for the weak of heart. For a minute I struggle to remember where I am. I open my eyes and look around.

The early morning sun wanders down through the pin oaks – still green but looking like they are thinking about turning. The canvas windows are unzipped and the cool breeze filters through – the children are making too much noise and it makes it hard for me to go back to sleep. “Let’s wake Frank up!” one calls out.

“No, let him sleep – he had a long day yesterday,” I say.

I hear a sound outside, gurgling and bubbling… what is it? It is water running? No, it’s too crispy sounding for that.

“Is that bacon frying?” I ask.

“Yes,” My wife says.

“Do we have any bread? Lettuce? Is that tomato still hanging around? Do you know what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah, it’s a big tomato. Do you want some orange juice?”

“That sounds good.”

She unzips the door and hands me a little cold waxed cardboard box of Tropicana Pure Premium, Made from Fresh Oranges – Not From Concentrate.

On the top it says “Convenient Straw Hole!” With an exclamation point. The straw is stuck to the side of the box and cunningly designed – it’s actually two-piece, with an inner, ordinary translucent plastic straw and an outer sheath that telescopes so you can reach the bottom of the box. You pull the two parts until they lock together full length. I imagine a gaggle of industrial packaging engineers sitting in a conference room projecting a PowerPoint of the straw configuration in front of some executive that has to approve the design.

The Convenient Straw Hole! is hard to find, it’s only a little curved dent in the cardboard, but the end of the two-piece straw is cut at a violent angle and cuts through the box with ease.

What will they think of next in this best of all possible worlds?

Short Story Of the Day, A Boom in the Morning by Bill Chance

Everybody had to get up early and was scurrying around the house making plans for the day – who would go where, what they would do, and what they could skip.

—-Bill Chance, A Boom in the Morning

NASA Photo

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 (#22). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


A Boom in the Morning

Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.

—-Sir Fred Hoyle

Hank knew it was going to be a busy, crazy day, and very warm for the first of February. His son had three soccer games and two basketball games. His daughter had art lessons and a basketball game. His car was in the shop. A typical insane Saturday in 2003 in a suburb east of Dallas.

Everybody had to get up early and was scurrying around the house making plans – who would go where, what they would do, and what they could skip.

He was looking for his wife’s keys when the house shook – some sort of boom. Even though the ground seemed to shudder for a split second it wasn’t really that loud, not much louder than the usual background rumbling vibrations from the three big freeways that surrounded their neighborhood. He was so preoccupied that he put it immediately out of mind. “What was that?” his wife Sara asked, “Was that a sonic boom?” If she hadn’t said that, he wouldn’t have remembered anything about the sound.

Sara drove him to her mother’s apartment and he borrowed her car (they had tried to figure out a way to get through the day with only one vehicle but couldn’t quite work it out). He drove home, picked up Elizabeth, their daughter, stopped by the bank to get money, left her at her art lesson (she took two one-hour lessons each Saturday, from nine to eleven AM), and drove down to Starbucks for a couple rare hours of relaxation.

Hank hadn’t been sitting very long when his cell phone rang.

“Did you hear about the shuttle,” an unknown voice said on the other end.

“What?”

“Oh, I think I punched the wrong number,” the voice said, and hung up.

A minute later it rang again; it was Sara, calling from the soccer fields.

“Did you hear about the shuttle?” she asked. He hadn’t been near a TV or live radio all day (He and Elizabeth had been listening to her favorite electronic dance station in the car – it’s only a tape playing on the radio, no DJ or news) and had no idea.

“Hang up, I’ll use something new, the Internet news feed on my Nextel cell phone to figure out what was up and call you back,” Hank said.

He punched into CNN from his phone and read on the tiny screen about the explosion and about the debris falling to the east, on Nacogdoches. Then he read about the sound, the explosion that could be heard.

He felt a sudden, terrible shock as he remembered what his wife had said an hour earlier and was sickened when he realized what it meant.

That was the boom… it was the shuttle blowing up over their heads.

He thought about the rest of the day, how busy they were going to be. Should they cancel anything? Was this going to change things? It had happened only a few miles over their heads.

No, no, nothing. For them, nothing would change. Hank continued to sip his coffee. Soon, he was thinking about his daughter’s afternoon basketball game, and if they had a chance of winning… not that he really cared.

Short Story Of the Day, Nouvelle Vague by Bill Chance

They would take a purposeful minute of silence every now and then. “If there’s nothing to say, let’s have a minute of silence” was their motto.

—-Bill Chance, Nouvelle Vague

 

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 (#15). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

Nouvelle Vague

 

Armando loved cars. And his girlfriend Cecile had a great one. Her father had a bit of cash stashed away and bought her a vintage light blue ’65 Mustang Convertible to drive around while she was at school. She used to say, “I live the top down life.”

The two of them also loved film… or more precisely, movies, because they mostly watched them on tape. The VHS format had recently defeated its deathly adversary, the Betamax, and a rental store for the hard-core movie aficionado had opened up near his apartment. The two of them were renting stacks of tapes and working their way through the French New Wave.

Though they lived in a tumbleweed-blown college town in the middle of the great plains they liked to pretend they were in Paris. A greasy spoon was a pale but workable substitute for a Parisian Cafe – one even had sidewalk tables for those few days where the weather wasn’t blowing ice or baking heat. They watched Godard and talked politics over meals and she cut her hair like Anna Karina.

Like all Nouvelle Vague couples they saved their important, passionate conversations for the times they were driving in the car. She named the Mustang Metal Hurlant. They would drive with the top down, sometimes slowly or sometimes sliding around the gravely corners. They would take turns driving and would imagine a camera on the hood shooting through the windshield as they talked about their dreams, argued, or the passenger would lean against the driver and they would cruise in silence.

They would take a purposeful minute of silence every now and then. “If there’s nothing to say, let’s have a minute of silence” was their motto. A minute of silence can be a long time. A real minute of silence takes forever. But they took pride in being able to pull it off.

It took some effort but they learned to dance The Madison. Never found a place in public they could show off.

There was nothing better than driving around with the top down in the twilight evening after a hot day. The convertible made its own breeze and the world was awash in magical colors once the sun set until it became too dark. They kept a little cooler of iced beer cans under the dash and would sneak sips when they knew the cops weren’t watching. Even the condensation on the curved aluminum was beautiful and delicious.

At the end of one of these perfect evenings the night crept down the sky until they had to think of something else to do.

“I know!” Armando said, “Look over there.”

It was the last drive in theater. The VHS tapes had killed the drive in – but there was one last one, hanging on, out there on the edge of town, at the end of time.

They didn’t even look to see what movie was playing, but paid their money and drove in. They were the only customers – the space vast and empty.

“At least we’ll be able to see close,” said Cecile. She drove down right to the front, with the towering white screen rising above them like a fortification. Cecile looked over the door, confused.

“Hey! Where are all the little speakers on poles?”

“Oh, those are long gone,” said Armando, “People kept stealing them. You just tune in on the radio for the sound.”

“This car doesn’t have a radio.”

They drove all the way back to the one spot, right beside the snack bar that still had a speaker. The single employee (who owned the theater and had taken their money earlier) popping corn and filling sodas could keep an eye on that one. They watched the movie on the tiny, distant screen, with nothing but space between.

Still it was nice. And sitting there in that specific instant in that vintage car with the top down watching the last drive in alone (except for the snack bar guy) in that peculiar slice of time they were happy, content and in the moment – blissful and unaware of the tumult and pandemonium that was bearing down on them… on everybody… like a tsunami of insanity – only a few short decades away.

Short Story Of the Day, Devil’s Claws by Bill Chance

“ They came across a place where a lamb had died over the winter. Every year a few would not make it through the snowstorms, maybe trapped out in the field by quick forming drifts… and freeze to death. There were some leg bones, some ribs scattered around, and the tiny skull was already half-covered with red dirt. They kicked at the bones a bit.”

—-Bill Chance, Devil’s Claws

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 (#14). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

Devil’s Claws

 

In the city, Sam Monaghan had been an elite baseball player – the offensive star of a select team, The Bombers. Not too bad of a pitcher either. He had to give up the sport in Coldgrove. That left a frustrating gap in his life, like a missing tooth in his jaw. The attackers had used his Bombers’ bat on his mother and he could not bear to hold one in his hands again.

They had lived in a brownstone in the old meatpacking district – they felt like urban pioneers. Until the one afternoon when Sam’s mother, Paula, came home from work to find the two tweakers that Sam’s father had hired to paint his little sister Brenda’s nursery waiting. After the attack on his wife that left her in a wheelchair, Sam’s father had moved the family out to the tiny rural hamlet of Coldgrove.

“Sam, I wish you would make some friends in the school here,” his mother said to him as he pushed her chair out onto the porch so she could watch the sun set.

“I know mom, I’ll try. I just don’t have anything in common with these kids.”

“What about Duane, dear? He lives on the next farm over, you can walk there whenever you want. He is only a grade below you.”

“I’ll see mom. I’ll see.”

“His mom says he plays baseball.”

Sam turned away.

She was talking about Duane Clankman, who was a year older than Sam was, even though Duane was a grade below. To Sam the whole Clankman clan existed somewhere out of time, as if they had been away from civilization for ages. Coldgrove itself felt out of whack for him.

Duane’s brothers and sisters were scattered all up and down the grades and you could pick them out of a crowd easy; the same thin, limp, blondish hair, homedone haircuts, clothes handed down from one to another, the same pale watery eyes, long faces, and the same blank, lost look.

Still, his mother protested and Sam could not resist her requests. Soon he was walking across the cow pasture, along the green algae-choked slough, to the Clankman’s farmhouse. They called the noon meal dinner and it was the best fried chicken he had ever tasted. He asked Mrs. Clankman for her secret.

“Oh honey, you just dip ‘em in milk, dredge in flour, salt and pepper, and fry ‘em in the ‘lectric skillet,” she said

“Then why is your chicken so good?”

“Oh honey, ‘cause an hour before you ate it that bird was runnin’ around in the front yard, eatin’ bugs.”

Duane’s mother wrapped a few pieces up and put them in a paper bag. A bit of grease made the bag translucent in places.

“You give this chicken to your mother, now,” she said, with a sad smile and a nod.

After dinner, Sam and Duane went for a long walk in the old west pasture. Sam’s mother had asked them to look for Devil’s Claws. The dry dark gray seedpods were scattered all over the pasture, hung up in among the prickly pears and clumps of sawgrass. She wanted to take a mess of claws, spray paint them gold and silver, and glue little plastic googly eyes on… decorate them up for a craft show the women were putting on down at the new library in town.

Along with the paper bag of chicken, they carried blue plastic bags from Wal-Mart to stuff the claws in. They were hard to carry even though they weighed almost nothing; the hooks tore at the cheap thin plastic until the claws would tumble out if you did not hold the bag exactly right.

They came across a place where a lamb had died over the winter. Every year a few would not make it through the snowstorms, maybe trapped out in the field by quick forming drifts… and freeze to death. There were some leg bones, some ribs scattered around, and the tiny skull was already half-covered with red dirt. They kicked at the bones a bit.

“Look at how the meadow grows here,” Duane said.

The thin brown grass of the old spent pasture was lush and green around the bones. Nourished by death, the body of the lamb.

Sam thought about why the grass was so thick and healthy around where the lamb had died. He thought about how the lamb had eaten the grass while it lived and now that it was gone, it gave everything back to the ground and to the grass that had nourished it.

“Duane?” Sam said, “You’re on the Coldgrove school baseball team, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, though I’m not so good. Just another body.”

“Do you think I could get on the team?”

“Yup, easy. Coach is always looking for players. Sometimes we barely put together a whole team.”

“Ok, then. I’ll need a new bat though.”

Short Story Of the Day, Just After the Wave by Sandrine Collett

 

But now this is driving him crazy, this ocean creeping closer, especially at night when no one can see it, at dawn the sea surprises them with its silent waves, ever higher, and the hens squawk because there is hardly anything left to peck at on the last bit of land that is holding out—for a few days the children fed them potato peels, but now there’s nothing left.

—-Just After the Wave, An excerpt of the novel by Sandrine Collette, translated from the French by Alison Anderson

 

Trinity River
Dallas, Texas

Read it here:

Just After the Wave, An excerpt of the novel by Sandrine Collette, translated from the French by Alison Anderson

from Guernica

 

Short Story of the Day – A Fight With a Cannon by Victor Hugo

A cannon that breaks its moorings suddenly becomes some strange, supernatural beast. It is a machine transformed into a monster. That short mass on wheels moves like a billiard-ball, rolls with the rolling of the ship, plunges with the pitching goes, comes, stops, seems to meditate, starts on its course again, shoots like an arrow from one end of the vessel to the other, whirls around, slips away, dodges, rears, bangs, crashes, kills, exterminates. It is a battering ram capriciously assaulting a wall. Add to this the fact that the ram is of metal, the wall of wood.

—-Victor Hugo, A Fight With a Cannon

Commemorative Air Force, Wings Over Dallas, Dallas, Texas

A FIGHT WITH A CANNON By Victor Hugo

All my life I have heard the phrase “A loose cannon” used to describe a person that, in some way or another, is dangerously out of control. Have heard it, as have you, thousands of times. I have never really thought about what it means.

Today’s short story A Fight With a Cannon by Victor Hugo explains what a loose cannon is and what it means in intricate, desperate, and horrific detail. Imagine a huge cylinder of metal, heavy and hard, on a carriage of wheels set loose unrestrained on a deck of a sailing ship on the high seas. It is a battering ram – full of random destructive motion. This is what a loose cannon is.

But what to do about it? And what to do after that? And after that? The story has the surprising solutions(s). Some people are not what they seem.  There is truly more than one kind of loose cannon.

Some helpful definitions:

Carronade – an obsolete naval gun of short barrel and large bore

Assignat – one of the notes issued as paper currency from 1789 to 1796 by the revolutionary government on the security of confiscated lands.

Chevalier – French History. the lowest title of rank in the old nobility.

Cascabel – a knoblike projection at the rear of the breech of a muzzleloading cannon.

Cross of Saint-Louis – The Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis was founded in 1693. The king would award the Cross of Saint-Louis to reward outstanding service to France. The recipient then became a “knight of Saint Louis”.

Ambuscade – an ambush.

Hammock-shroud – A poetical expression which derives its force from the fact that the bodies of sailors or other persons dying at sea are sewed up in hammocks and committed to the deep.

Everything That Was Not Death

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

A tree fell in a bad spot, downtown Dallas, Texas

I saw this waiting for the streetcar to Bishop Arts district. What really sucks is that tree didn’t fall by accident, it looked like it was cut down (though it was dead and probably going to fall anyway). I guess once it fell on the meter, they were scared to move it. Somebody is not very happy.

Nanowrimo Day Four

Ultimate goal – 50,000 words.
Daily goal – 1,667 words
Goal total so far – 6,667 words

Words written today – 1,722
Words written so far – 7,100 words
Words to goal – +433

Oak Point Nature Preserve

From this picture you would think I was out in the country somewhere, cruising the Great Plains, rather than in the heart of the urban, tony suburb of Plano, Texas.

 

“I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I have been in the red all my life.”
― Woody Guthrie

As I committed the other day I am doing Nanowrimo – the National Novel Writing Month this November – writing a 50,000 word (small) novel in a month. Not necessary a good novel, or even a readable novel, but one of 50K words.

This was a tough writing day. Since I was off work, I wanted to really spend some time and maybe double my word count in case I needed a day off this week (which looks awfully busy). But shit happens and a good bit of it did. I managed to write a couple hundred words at lunch and didn’t think I’d be able to get a lot done at night, but I managed to sit down and hammer out my quota.

I’m not to happy with what I wrote, but it is what it is. I wrote the backstory of a new character – I originally intended him to be killed early, but now that I’ve spent so long on his backstory I might keep him around for a while – maybe make him an antagonist. He is a nasty piece of work with an odd name – Prime Meridian.

I started out with the story of how his grandfather, Isaac Meridian, established the start of the family fortune by foreclosing on the misery of the  people of the plains during the great depression and the dust bowl. Too much exposition – but this is Nanowrimo, so I keep typing.

Snippet of what I wrote:

Each little town had its own movie theater, city hall, and carefully tended town square. Every weekend there would be picture shows, dances, and even traveling entertainment – tiny circuses, barnstormers, or small concert orchestras – moving from town to town earning what they could – which was usually enough. People would travel from town to town enjoying the times, making friends.

Nobody ever thought the good times would end. Until they did.

It all happened with horrific speed. The rains stopped. Nobody had understood that the rainy time was the rare exception, not the rule. The land quickly reverted back to what it had always been – a wind-blasted near desert. The crops died and then the soil began to blow. Vast dust clouds began to form as millions of tons of topsoil were blown off barren fields and carried for hundreds of miles.

Walls of dust, moving mountains of dust, shot across the plains, devouring everything in sight. To be hit by this was like walking through a storm of razors. People caught in their own yards would be forced to grope for the doorstep. Cars were forced to a standstill, and no light in the world could penetrate that swirling murk. They lived with the dust, ate it, slept with it, and watched it strip everyone of possessions and the hope of possessions