Short Story of the day, A Tobacco Plant by Punch Magazine, November 11,1914

“After some time he felt for his pipe. It was not broken, and that was something. Then he felt for his pouch, and there was some tobacco in it, and that was something more. Then he felt for matches and he could not find any at all, and that shattered his hopes completely.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

Wasps at the Trinity River Audubon Center

I worked at work and then worked at home and didn’t finish until eleven o’clock. Only time for a quick read of classic flash fiction. Luckily it, although well over a hundred years old, is a good one.

A Tobacco Plant by Punch Magazine, November 11, 1914

 

Short Story of the day, Death Constant Beyond Love by Gabriel García Márquez

“Senator Onesimo Sanchez had six months and eleven days to go before his death when he found the woman of his life.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Death Constant Beyond Love

Black and White love

Reading Gabriel García Márquez is like a breath of fresh air. A breath on the inhale of thick fetid jungles of dense life. On exhale a bare hot desert seashore, like the setting of today’s story.

Death Constant Beyond Love by Gabriel García Márquez

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, A Defenseless Creature by Anton Chekhov

“What can I do for you?” he asked a lady in an antediluvian mantle, whose back view was extremely suggestive of a huge dung-beetle.”
― Anton Chekhov, A Defenseless Creature

Mural outside of Sandwich Hag, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

So while we are reading Russians… how about another one – maybe something by Chekhov.

A Defenseless Creature by Anton Chekov

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy

“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.”
― Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata

The Forest, David Smith (click to enlarge)

Over the years I have been embarrassed because I would occasionally be confused over who wrote Crime and Punishment vs. War and Peace. So, because I’m reading Dostoevsky, here’s something by Tolstoy.

Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, The Hen by Clarice Lispector

“I only achieve simplicity with enormous effort”
― Clarice Lispector, A Hora Da Estrela

I rode my bike to the grocery store today – we only needed a couple things: a dozen eggs and one jalapeño pepper. It was raining and surprisingly cold, but I rode my bike anyway. While I was locking up, next to me a woman was in her car, her head covered in plastic, carefully reaching out and grabbing stuff from her cart. Even though it was only a sprinkle and felt good after a hot Texas summer, she was being very careful not to let any of the rain touch her. She looked at me as water dripped off my foam helmet like I had lost my mind.

Unfortunately, when I was about to enter the store the strap on my mask broke and I didn’t have a spare so I rode back home empty-panniered. Then I found a jalapeño in the crisper and nobody really needed eggs so I stayed home and read my weekly allowance of The Brothers Karamazov.

Today’s flash fiction is an odd little bird from an author I have been reading pretty regularly.

The Hen by Clarice Lispector

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, A Russian Tale by Valery Petrovskiy

“But man is a fickle and disreputable creature and perhaps, like a chess-player, is interested in the process of attaining his goal rather than the goal itself.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground, White Nights, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, and Selections from The House of the Dead

Spring Snow, Richardson, Texas

I was up way too late last night reading. I’m deep into my reading group’s peregrination through The Brothers Karamazov. So here’s a Russian story:

A Russian Tale by Valery Petrovskiy

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, before the storm by Alex Sheal

“That room made no sense as a storm refuge, numberless rogue objects lying around and not enough duct tape on the windows. Her housemates panicked up and down the stairs, thumping on the walls, for dawn had turned to day and still the storm roared..”
― Alex Sheal, before the storm

Dallas, Texas

It stormed last night, although it didn’t rain until after I got out of bed. The power went off and I didn’t know it. The alarm went off on my phone and when I silenced it my clock said three AM. I glanced at the window and it was dark (this time of year my alarm goes off in twilight) – so I thought my clock was right and my phone had the wrong time. The thought of my phone being in error filled me with terror – the world has truly gone mad.

But at that moment a terrific bolt of lightning struck right outside my window and I realized it was the thick thunderclouds that made it so dark – hiding the day from my bedroom window.

I decided to take my COVID-19 prerogative and work from home for the day.

An interesting flash fiction for you today:

before the storm by Alex Sheal

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, Where Are You? by Joyce Carol Oates

“You people who have survived childhood don’t remember any longer what it was like. You think children are whole, uncomplicated creatures, and if you split them in two with a handy axe there would be all one substance inside, hard candy. But it isn’t hard candy so much as a hopeless seething lava of all kinds of things, a turmoil, a mess. And once the child starts thinking about this mess he begins to disintegrate as a child and turns into something else–an adult, an animal.”
― Joyce Carol Oates

Downtown Waxahatchie, Texas

Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read a lot of what she’s written and understand most of it.

Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?

Life After High School

Heat

What I like the best about her is that she is not afraid to go for the jugular. I have a need to explore the thin membrane – the border –  between what we all consider our day-to-day lives and the world of evil chaos that is right there on the other side. She understands that and will cross that membrane and will bring you along with her.

In today’s bit if flash fiction she does that, in only 500 words.

Where Are You?, by Joyce Carol Oates

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, My Dead by Peter Orner

“The world says: “You have needs — satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don’t hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.” This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Beautiful Cars, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Tonight, I had a Zoom meeting from home. I used to go to these reading group meetings at the Wild Detectives Book Store in Bishop Arts. My favorite was when I’d take the train and trolley from work every Wednesday after work for that week’s meeting on reading Gravity’s Rainbow.

It was fun.

It feels like a thousand years ago.

So now the same group is going to do another “Difficult Book.” We are reading Dostoyevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov over the next few months – about a hundred pages a week. We will meet on Zoom every week to discuss what we’ve read.

Tonight was the kickoff meeting – no reading yet… only introductions and strategies. It was a little awkward – everyone seems so lonely. Hopefully, we will all get along. It should be fun.

Ok, here’s the opposite of a Russian novel – some flash fiction from The New Yorker.

My Dead, by Peter Orner.





 


Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, Sorry Dan, But It’s No Longer Necessary for a Human to Serve as CEO of This Company by Eric Cofer

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Braindead Brewing, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Is there a word for being in a constant state of angry/funk? I can’t think of one.

I guess I’ll have to make one up.

Here’s some thesaurus entries for anger:

acrimony 
animosity 
annoyance 
antagonism 
displeasure 
enmity 
exasperation 
fury 
hatred 
impatience 
indignation 
ire 
irritation 
outrage 
passion 
rage 
resentment 
temper 
violence 
chagrin 
choler 
conniption 
dander 
disapprobation 
distemper 
gall 
huff 
infuriation 
irascibility 
irritability 
miff 
peevishness 
petulance 
pique 
rankling 
soreness 
stew 
storm 
tantrum 
tiff 
umbrage 
vexation 
blow up 
cat fit 
hissy fit 
ill humor 
ill temper 
mad 
slow burn

And here’s some for ennui (a more technical term for funk):

apathy 
languor 
melancholy 
sadness 
tedium 
weariness 
blahs 
blues 
dejection 
depression 
dissatisfaction 
doldrums 
dumps 
fatigue 
lassitude 
listlessness 
satiety 
spiritlessness 
surfeit 
yawn 
ho hums 
lack of interest 
languidness 

Let’s pick three of each:

-fury

-rage

-conniption

and

-blues

-dumps

-doldrums

And now, pick two that go together:

The Conniption Dumps – Yeah, that’s the ticket.

I suffering from serious Conniption Dumps.

One of the (though by no means the only) sources of my anger and my ennui (my Conniption Dumps) is that I am being swept under and drowned in waves of corporate bullshit. Real Office Space levels of mendacity. The Covid Lockdown has enabled the evil armies of schemers and buttkissers out there (they particularly flourish in hours-long zoom meetings) and those enemies of all that is human and good are running rampant across the land. The rough beast is slouching toward Bethlehem.

Today’s Flash Fiction, Sorry Dan, But It’s No Longer Necessary for a Human to Serve as CEO of This Company by Erik Cofer is a tale of such a disaster.

Although, it is implied, in this case, that the downfall of the human is an error in a company softball game. That seems, as horrible as it seems, almost comforting to me. At least it is something real.

Sorry Dan, But It’s No Longer Necessary for a Human to Serve as CEO of This Company by Eric Cofer

from McSweeney’s