Short Story of the Day, Poetry, Billy Collins, by Erren Geraud Kelly

“The mind can be trained to relieve itself on paper.”
― Billy Collins

This woman was waving a turkey leg out of her food trailer. When someone came up to buy one, she said, “Let me get you a fresh one hon, this is my demo model, I’ve been waving it out this window for hours.”

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, September 29, 2001. Exactly twenty years ago.

Sidekicks

Nicholas had accumulated two free tickets and a two-for-one coupon for the Dallas Sidekicks indoor soccer team game tonight. He asked a kid from his team to go with us and Candy and I used the two-for-one.

Dallas has built a new sports arena – but the Sidekicks, practitioners of a non-major, second or third tier (for Texas, anyway) sport remain in the old, smaller, less tony, and luxury skybox-less arena. Fine with us. The smaller place is more intimate and you can see the game better.

Most important of all, the nachos (actually a skimpy paper holder with some stale chips and two tiny plastic cups – one full of motor-oil-like fake cheese sauce, the other loaded with some sort of brown bland bilious chili-resembling substance) are sold sans jalapenos, but there are condiment stands nearby with all the sliced peppers you can pile on. I piled on plenty. As a matter of fact, I made two trips from our seats up and back to the condiment stand for more hot peppers. I was going to buy a Diet Dr. Pepper but while I was in line the guy in front of me ordered a beer and it simply looked too good to pass up. The beer and nachos came to nine dollars and fifty cents.

That’s what sports is all about, isn’t it. I was sitting in a cramped plastic arena seat drinking a five-dollar lukewarm beer and eating grease laced with so many hot peppers the top of my head sweated. I had to keep rubbing my hair because so much capsicum-induced heat was rising up and shooting out the top of my head.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

And a piece of poetry for today:

Billy Collins, by Erren Geraud Kelly

from West Texas Literary Review

A Descent Into the Mythos

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

From my old web-site – from 2003 or so.

Since my porcine companion, Portobello Poblano, (we call him “Porto” for short) and I had a grand day of adventure planned, we decided to have a hearty lunch at the restaurant in our hotel, the Akimbo Arms. Porto had the fried chicken and cream gravy which is too greasy for me, so I ordered the fruit plate.

The mangoes, strawberries, and plums were wonderful. The melon balls, green, yellow, and fleshy orange were passable, cool yet a tad slimy. I was horrified to discover there were no grapes on my plate (and they are in the prime season now!).

I complained to our waitress, a stoic, statuesque woman, until I was literally blue in the face. Finally she left to fetch a bunch.

Where is she? She is the slowest waitress I have ever seen! It is as if she is made of stone!

The young man aged before our eyes. The day darkened, he changed. His painting, though, became developed in color and enveloped in light. This is art. The artist grows old but the years of experience are preserved in the bright colors on his canvas.

We are approaching the heart of the Mythos.
The Dallas “Sacred Can”
A mural, a memorial to the creators of it all.

The Rhinos were being overrun by their mortal enemies, the Hephalumps. Their horrible Hephalump claws were penetrating the inner perimeter defences. It would be only a matter of minutes until the Hephalumps were dancing their victory jig over the corpses of the enemy. Soon it would all be wails, horror, the grinding of horns into aphrodisiacal teas.

The only recourse available to the heroic, if dim-witted, Rhino commander was to call in an air strike on his own position. On his command the orange-flamed lead finned death screamed from the green afternoon sky.

The only victor on the field of battle today would be the angel of death and her minions of buzzing flies and conqueror worms.

We came to a door.

Adventure

A door, a door to where?

Electric Frankenstein (“Takes on Texas!”)
Chumps
Huge Peter
Orbit Room
BARFeeders
Pump ‘N Ethyl
Spazmis
Urine Trouble
The Murderers (on tour) (all ages)
Hi Yah!

Visa and MasterCard Accepted

We had credit cards, so we went in.

The yuppies were advancing on the Mythos. Buiding their condominiums, their gated communities.

In self-defence, the denizens built this moat. Lined its walls with the most effective totems in their arsenal.

The spiked foot
The burning bathtub. (Life is what happens to you when you are making other plans).
The crazy old man.

That’ll hold them yuppies, keep the barbarians at the gate.

We were now past the paintings and the only remaining clue to the mystery that was the Mythos were the Cylinder Mounuments. These were everywhere, lined up, these wooden shafts. The local denizens decorate these poles with metal and paper. They are studded with small strips of steel, hammered in or shot through by spring loaded guns. Starnge cryptic messages are sometimes attached, extolling the virtues of various mysterious meetings, shindigs.

What strange ceremonies lead to the decorating of these poles? What goes on in these promised parties?

We came around the corner and there it was. Up high, next to a drawing of the king’s head and crown. The roundear king’s grubby hand reached up towards the words. Small print, yet legible, the words, the words. We had walked so far and braved so many dangers to find these words, this phrase.

But what did they mean?

This is a place that in which you are in a joint of pleasure and pain. A possible everlasting joy of never reaching the end.

Ah was watchin’ mah TeeVee when this voice comes on and says that it was time to activate the ‘Mergency Broadcast System. The voice said it was only a drill, but I decided not to take any chances. I ‘membered that there was this place where the street goes under the railroad tracks, an underpass, I ‘membered that there was one of them yeller ‘n black deals, fallout shelter signs. So me ‘n Ol’ Paint, we walked down to the spot. Ol’ Paint is too old for me to ride ‘er, so we both walked.

Ah saw what I thought were rooskie planes flyin’ overhead so we giddyuped under those tracks as fast as we could. Ol’ Paint ‘n I huddled ‘gether in that there underpass, which smelled o’ wino piss somthin’ awful, I’m not afeared to tell ya, fer what seemed like hours and hours. We heared what we thought was the end of the world, this terrible rumblin’ and shakin’ and what not. We were plum scared, we was, I’m not afeared to tell ya.

Turned out out it was only a fast frieght out o’ Beaumont, carryin’ imported machine tool parts and tank cars of acrylic monomers ‘cross that bridge over our heads, but we didn’t know any o’ that, not at the time anyhow. So we were sorely relieved when that policeman told us nothin’ was goin’ on and rousted us otta there. He told us to move along and we went out the other end from the one we come in on.

And there he was. Painted up on the pillar ‘tween the two roads, one goin’ in, the other out. The darm Cactus Cat-Dog Angel, painted up there, pretty as real life. And twice as scary too. As relieved to find out the world wasn’t endin’ in a nucular holocaust, that Cactus Cat-Dog Angel shore gave us the willies, chillin’ right up our backbones.

We’d both heard the stories. ‘Bout the Cactus Cat-Dog Angel showin’ that day out in Abeline, ’bout how the sun had turned red and the wind blew hot, and all the birds flew off, squakin, in fear. Folks don’t talk ’bout much mor’n that, they’s too skeered. In Fort Stockton, ‘n Monahans, ‘n Tulia too, all those towns where nobodys got nowhere to go ‘cept out into the open land with the sagebrush and mesquite when the scary things come.

Since that day, Ol’ Paint ‘n I go down to those tracks and check on that ol Cactus Cat-Dog Angel, makin’ sure he ain’t up to nothin’ bad. Sometimes I leave a little beef jerkey, or a half a plug of chewin’ ‘baccy there by the wall, Ol’ Paint ‘l leave a hank of fresh hay or a piece o’ salt lick. Just to be sure.

Don’t hurt nothin’ to stay on the good side. Y’all know what I mean?

The Giant showed up out of the blue. Pulling his wheeled cart he tore through the parking lots, grabbing cars left and right.

He chose carefully, not the most expensive or most exotic vehicles. He picked certain ones because he liked their colors.

The police were overmatched, they were forced to call out the big guns, the army and Toho studios.

But as the tanks were assembled, as the planes took to the air, the Giant decided to leave, as suddenly as he arrived.

“I think I hear my Mommy calling!” were his only cryptic words as he left.

At the edge, we found the artists working on the Mythos itself. A young man, painting. Extending the wonder, the art, the legends on and on, into the darkness.

Porto and I climbed up through the crack, hammering steel pegs into the rough rock as we went. We used our trusty sisal ropes to pull our bicyles and other provisions up after us.

We were afraid the Mythos would be extinct on the surface, but as our eyes became used to the sunlight we spotted a sign that indicated we would have a clear view ahead.

One look at the wall, with its Atlas and winged globe, fantastic preacher, and purple eye creature, showed us that the Mythos was alive and well in these here parts.

We were now at the end, the last door. Set behind one of the mysterious metal encrusted cylinder monuments was the nondescript entrance. As Porto and I were examining the portal, a dirty man shuffled up to us on the street.

“Cain’t y’all read! It says there to Leave yer rad’ators outside!”

Properly warned, we leaned our radiators up against the monument, pulled open the door, and passed through.

She was handsome, he was beautiful. They were in love. They were doomed.

The dark slick night, red hotel sign blinking vacancy, reflected in wet asphalt of the parking lot. He sat in his car outside room 15, idling the engine. A cold, hard mist continued to fall.

On the dash was an empty bottle of Jonny Walker Red, on the seat beside him was a loaded 38. She was inside the room, excited, expecting romance.

“Sorry, honey, not tonight” he said to nobody in particular as he backed out into the night.

Porto and I were worried that we would be lost in this savage land. The symbols and streets were mazelike and confusing, promising unknown pleasure or death around each blind corner.

Luckily, the denizens of this place had provided a map, applied with cunning dexterity and accuracy to an side wall. My companion and I stopped for a pull on our refreshment flasks and discovered the map.

As a matter of fact, I practically leaned my bicycle upon the very lines before I was able to decipher the ‘glyphs and determine its meaning.

Lady luck and her elusive lover, Good Fortune, have both smiled upon us this very day.

A crack a creavase.
Tremendous hideous strength.
Sound of rumbling, steel and rubber thunder.
Through the crack of light
giant luminous buildings, floating on air
and green green cash

Down here the lost wander
sleeping unseen in the open
smells of filth, smells of alcohol
Shanty smells, in the clear, yet dark

Climb, climb if you dare
If you can
Don’t forget us
Thought we know you will.

We’ll forget you too.

There is no way that I can put down in this humble notebook all the wonders that Porto and I saw, heard, and smelt on our perilous journey through the Mythos.

At the end though, as we were returning to the paddle boat, was a surprise for me. A very personal surprise.

Totally by accident (dare I say it – by Chance?) we met up with Betsy, a woman I was in love with a long, long time ago. It was a youthful, torrid affair, but I was soon put off by her sometimes coldness, and the terrific differences in our backgrounds. So I grew proud, and resentful, and then came that one terrible, regretful night, when I drank too much cheap wine, and said things that should have been left unsaid.

We have drifted far across over these years, but meeting her again brought the memories back. Her regal air, that precious spit curl on the side of her head, those firm naked breasts.

Betsy and I will meet again next week. What will happen? I don’t know. I’m wiser now, I can see clearly what I gave up for pride long, long ago.

Here in the Mythos, the tales and stories of the real world filter in. But they become distorted, warped by the peculiar needs and desires of the people here into lessons for their own place and time.

“The little engine that could” is a mural in honor of the little steam train that almost made it over the mountains, bringing toys for the deserving girls and boys. He almost made it but needed help from Arcturus, the eagle, and Wilbur, the strongman of the mountains.

But when the engine reached the city on the other side, he didn’t mention Arturus or Wilbur and took all the credit for himself. He was hailed a hero; songs, books, and films were made in his honor. Parents would tell the fable to their children in a pitiful and futile attempt to spur the kids on to a purposeful and brave life.

At night though, the engine would hear the caw, caw, of high and distant eagles. When he rolled past the woods, it seemed that someone would throw mudballs and faint curses from the deepest forest.

It wasn’t long before the little engine was replaced by diesel-electrics. He was left to rust on a siding, croaking out his tale to any unfortunate passersby. His story lives on, but he is known now by the few that know him as a pitiful old loser, whining away on lost glories.

Sunday Snippet, Creature by Bill Chance

I can tell you something about this place. The boys around here call it “The Black Lagoon” – a paradise. Only they say nobody has ever come back to prove it.

The Creature From the Black Lagoon

Beer Cap

Creature

Sammy Peeps lived by a park where a lot of people walked their dogs. He didn’t have a dog but since he quit working he had a lot of time and he’d walk by himself. There were little dispensers of plastic bags and he developed the habit of carrying one and picking up any forsaken piles of feces. He thought he looked odd carrying a little bag of dog shit with no dog, but he did it anyway.

There was a string of ponds lined with a few benches. On nice weather days he would sit and watch the dog walkers going around and around. As the days went buy he began to notice all the other critters that inhabited the park and the ponds. He was surprised at the amount and variety of wildlife, given that this was a tiny green space in the midst of a huge city. Squirrels would scamper in the trees next to his spot and cackle at him – either playing or pissed, Sammy couldn’t decide. Ducks swam across the water or flew through the air. So did two flocks of geese – Sammy was shocked at how large the geese were once he was able to observe them closely. His favorite sound was the whish and splash as the birds flew in for a water landing. Turtles – laconic red-eared or primordial, savage snappers – basked in the sun or moved underwater with heads poking up.

If he walked out at dawn or just after sunset he would see coyotes out for a nighttime duck snack along with rats, skunks, or other nocturnal creatures. The city had to wrap wire around the lower trunks of the trees to protect them from the beavers that lived upstream. On a couple of rare occasions he even saw the large, black bulk of these sliding through the water or crossing from pond to pond.

As the months went by he learned the entire menagerie of wild animals and the society of dog walkers until it was all very familiar and mundane.

That amplified the shock when something new showed up. It was small and slick and reptilian and slid from a drainage pipe into the pond. He stared at the slight V of the wake as it swam smoothly just under the water. Then he saw a face – part fish-like, part reptilian, and part shockingly human rise above the water for a few seconds. It seemed to be looking at him.

He would see the creature again and again, almost every time he went to the pond, which was at least every day. Now that he had found something strange and unknown, the pull became irresistible. The creature seemed aware of him, though it never came close – would simply swim this way and that, or climb a short way out of the pond, to rest in the warm sun. Sammy was confused that nobody else, none of the dog walkers, paid any attention to the strange creature. It was like he was the only thing that saw it and the only thing it saw.

He bought a pair of powerful binoculars in order to observe the creature better. He felt odd sitting there on the bench in public scanning the ponds with the heavy instruments – people would glare at him but nobody said anything.

Sammy had no idea what the creature ate, but it was growing. Imperceptibly at first, but the change began to add up over the months. It was getting undoubtedly bigger.

Then, one day it was gone. Alarmed, he went to the ponds in every spare moment, scouring the place for another glimpse. He even took to walking the creek up and downstream in case the creature had moved to another area, but nothing.

Finally, one night, he woke up to the sound of his doorbell. At first he did nothing, hoping it would go away. It was not the time of night for anyone to be trying to bother him. But the ringing continued and was interrupted by a kind of knocking on the door itself. The sound sent shivers up Sammy’s spine – it was almost like a human knuckle knock, but just a little soft, a little wet sounding.

Sammy finally gathered all the courage he could and went to the door. He looked through the peephole and saw what he was afraid to see, though he was expecting it.

It was the creature. It had grown to a human height and was standing on his front stoop, still knocking on the door. It’s face was covered with scales and it had some sort of preternatural gills hanging down from its neck – but it looked more human that it had at the pond.

Shivering with both fear and excitement, Sammy Peeps reached out, unlocked the bolt, and began to turn the knob.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Harvest Moon, by Scotch Rutherford

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon

― Neil Young, Harvest Moon

The moon rising over the Dallas skyline and the pond at Trammell Crow Park. From the October Full Moon Ride.

Full Moon Tonight. It’s the Harvest Moon. I remember when we would go on bike rides at night on full moon nights. The last year and a half – it’s been so bad… Sometimes I feel I’ll never do anything fun again.

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Wednesday, December 4, 2002. A longish entry, about falling stars.

Leonids

I have always wanted to go camping during a meteor shower. I’ve tried to schedule a trip to West Texas, Big Bend, during one but the timing has never been right. One year I did drive out with Nicholas, then only a tad bigger than a toddler, and ended out in a cornfield east of Rockwall; but Nicholas was impatient, we were still in the pool of city light, and ended up seeing nothing. Last year I was ready to go out and see the Leonids, but the state was swathed in a belt of thick clouds and nothing would have been visible.

Last Month I read that this year was going to be the last predicted good Leonid storm for a long time, and I didn’t want to miss it. I have a snotload of vacation left that I have to take before the end of the year so I scheduled a day off the next day and drove out after work into East Texas, heading for Lake Tawakoni State Park, where we had gone family camping a while back.

The park office was closed when I pulled in so I dutifully filled out a little envelope, put my fifteen dollars in (nine for the campsite, five for the entry fee, and one because I didn’t have change) and dropped it into the heavy metal tube. The park was almost completely empty – only a few RV’s scattered here and there. I picked a spot on the first loop, choosing one right next to the trail to the bathrooms. It only took me a few minutes to set up my tent.

While I wrestled with the aluminum poles I spotted a bright meteor crackling down between two trees. I watched for a while but didn’t see anything else. The peak was supposed to come somewhere around three AM, so I set the alarm on my IPAQ PDA and settled down in my tent to read myself to sleep. Even if I didn’t see another meteor, at least I had spotted one – and my trip wouldn’t be completely wasted. I tried calling home but was on the very edge of cell service. I could hear Nick answer on the other end, “Hello! Hello! Who is it?” but he couldn’t hear anything I said.

It wasn’t much longer until a big diesel pickup rumbled by, screeched its brakes, backed up, and started shining a powerful spotlight on my tent. I dragged myself out and walked over to the official truck.
“I paid in the box out front,” I said.
“Oh,” said the bearded, grizzled man in the truck.
“You here for the meteor shower too?” he continued.
“Yeah,” I said.
“They say this will be the biggest one for thirty years,” he said, “and we’ll be at another park by then, for sure. There’s a bunch in the other camping loop that’s going to meet down at the dock at three and I think the wife and I will go down there to watch.”
“Thanks.”
“Well, have a good night.”

It was starting to get cold, so I slithered back into my bag and fell deeply asleep until my IPAQ started buzzing.

The full moon was out and very bright. The park was lit with what looked like a flat blue daylight. It was light enough for me to easily move around and set stuff up. If I had had a newspaper, I could have read it without trouble. There were some engines running and people moving around down towards the lake, and I thought about joining the folks down at the dock but ultimately decided to go it alone. The trees at Tawakoni are thick so I set my folding chair up in the middle of the park road and wrapped myself up in a blanket and my unzipped sleeping bag. My folding chair leans way back which is unpleasant for what I usually use it for (it stays in the trunk of the Taurus) – watching soccer games – but was perfect for stretching back and looking up at the sky. Some small animal, probably a possum (too quiet for an armadillo) shuffled around in the grass beside the road, and then shambled back into the woods.

The bright moon washed out a lot of the stars. It would be impossible to spot any faint meteors. I thought for a few minutes that there wouldn’t be anything and I’d go back home empty-eyed. But after a few minutes the shower started.

The meteor shower wasn’t spectacular; it didn’t make me think of the Fourth of July. Still, it had a powerful ephemeral beauty. There would be a pause, a minute or so, when nothing would happen, then maybe a single quick transient streak across the sky. That would be followed by a little burst – a cluster of four or five and the activity would keep up for a few minutes until it tapered off for another pause. A few falling stars were big enough to scream across a big arc of the sky, leaving behind a little trail of sparks for a split-second. I know they were silent but I could imagine a crackling sound as those fell.

It was obvious how the meteors appeared to flow from a single point, in Leo. They would radiate out, the big ones lingering, traveling across a big chunk, the tiny ones merely a fugacious slash across the dark. It was this temporary nature of the display that fascinated me – a tiny sliver of an instant… then they are gone. I had a big grin on my face, half-frozen there by the cold air.

I watched for a little over an hour or so until the show petered out. I never really went back to sleep – it wasn’t long before the sky began to lighten in the east and I packed everything up. Driving back into the city, I realized that I could go on in to work – it was early enough.

I decided to take the day off anyway.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Harvest Moon, by Scotch Rutherford

from Every Day Fiction

Scotch Rutherford page

Sunday Snippet, My Hovercraft is Full of Eels by Bill Chance

“It would not be until darkness had taken indisputable control over the land, until the flames of the bonfire created an unreal world of shadows, until tequila and mescal untied men from their somber selves.”

― Warren Eyster, The Goblins of Eros

Moore to the point (click to enlarge)

My Hovercraft is Full of Eels

Willard Waters had an undergraduate degree in accounting. He thought of himself as being an accountant’s accountant. After spending a couple of years at a desk staring at a spreadsheet to the left and a calculator spewing a long spiral of paper tape to the right he decided to go to law school. Now he was still an accountant’s accountant but he was also a lawyer’s lawyer.

He rode the foundation’s car service into a sketchy run-down industrial part of town that he had never been in before. The car disgorged him on the sidewalk and drove off. The driver knew a favorite burger joint nearby and would wait there for a call.

Waters looked at the rusty hulking warehouse in front of him and found the heavy steel door. Off to the side was a button and a small speaker. He frowned at the sign on the door:

Sacha Row
Sculptress Extraordinaire
“My Hovercraft is Full of Eels”

“What the hell does that mean?” Waters mumbled to himself. He smoothed the fabric of his expensive suit, adjusted his tie, and pushed the button. Almost immediately a voice crackled from the speaker, “Com on in, it’s not locked.”

He tugged, the door squeaked and gave way, opening into a dark, vast space filled with smoke. Waters coughed and entered. He knew the smoke wasn’t tobacco. Some sort of a massive sound system spewed out the deafening beats of overamplified electronic dance music. As his eyes grew used to the dim light the first thing he saw was a massive, lumpy pile of grayish clay heaped up in the middle of the room. He knew that must be the sculpture in question. It didn’t look like it was very close to being finished.

Waters looked around and spotted a group of three men sitting on a huge overstuffed couch. On a table made of a big wooden cable reel sat a massive hookah and a collection of plastic bongs filled with dark water. A galvanized five gallon bucket of ice and studded with bottles of beer leaked a puddle of water onto the concrete floor. Two women stood in front of the men, eyes closed, dancing to the pulsing rhythm of the loud music.

“Are either of you two Sacha Row?” Waters shouted at the dancing women. They ignored him.

“Sacha? Naw… She’s in the back,” said the guy in the middle of the couch.

“You wanna talk to her?” said the guy on the left.

“Sacha! Some guy out here wants to talk to you! Sacha!” yelled the guy on the right. He had quite a pair of lungs on him… he was able to out-shout the music.

“Jeez, Doc, I heard you the first time, who’all is here to see me?” Sacha said as she walked out of an office at the back of the space.

Waters felt his jaw drop and a warm pit form in his stomach when he saw her. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. “Sacha Row?” he managed to choke out.

“That’s me!” she said as she walked directly up to him. On the way, past the ice bucket, she leaned over with incredible grace and pulled out a bottle.

“Ms. Row… I am a lawyer and a forensic accountant here representing the Wintringham Foundation concerning the sizeable grant you received for the sculpture commission. The schedule is vastly past due and,” he said gesturing at the mass of clay, “the product doesn’t seem to be in a deliverable condition.”

“Well, first, call me Sasha, please, and second… well, great art can’t be rushed.”

“Umm… Sasha, we have noticed that you have withdrawn the majority of the funds allocated for bronze casting has been withdrawn… prematurely…”

“I’m not sure if either of us are in a mood to talk business right now… So, here, have a swig,” she said as she handed him the bottle. He realized it wasn’t beer – but some sort of cheap Mescal. In a trance, Waters raised the bottle. The liquid burned like liquid lava and he coughed as he swallowed. Sasha grabbed the bottle from him, stuck the neck into her mouth and tipped her head back. Waters watched as she held it there with the bottle sticking straight up, upside down. He was the worm sink slowly down through the clear alcohol, into the neck of the bottle, until it disappeared between Sasha Row’s lips. There was a gulp and a pulse in her throat… and the worm was gone.

Willard Walters was hopelessly in love. It was no use. He also realized that Sasha knew it too. He took another big, deep burning drink.

“Now, Willard,” Sasha said, “We’ve been using the money for a little ongoing party here… and we don’t see any reason to stop. Don’t you agree?”

Waters nodded. He took another drink. He stared at the hookah on the table. But one thought suddenly pushed into his consciousnesses.

“Sasha, you know that no matter what I do, they’ll send someone else.”

“I know. They’ve sent others before. You are not the first.”

“But what happened with them?”

Sasha Row merely gestured at the three men on the couch.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Appearances are Deceptive, by Mary Papas

“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

― Neil Gaiman, The Kindly Ones

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.

Took a day off work – the COVID-19 vaccination mandate is overwhelming everything – there are so many questions unanswered. It’s been a while since I had my jab and am thinking about a booster, but the FDA Booster Shot decision is putting it into the fog like everything else (I don’t turn 65 for a few months).

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Friday, January 1, 1999 – More than twenty years ago. The kids, at that age, were connoisseurs of fast-food ball-pits – we knew all the ones in a ten-mile radius of our house and most of them along the highways radiating in all directions.

Saturday, January 1, 1999, McDonald’s with Playland

….. House is empty.
Holiday is spent.

I needed to get the kids
some exercise.
Drizzling Wet Warm Fog
No day for outside.
So it’s off to
McDonald’s with Playland.

Nick and Lee are good enough
I can let them go around
on their own.
I can sit and write.
notebook on green laminate.

Lee borrows my pen
to follow the numbers
on a placemat puzzle.
He says he knows
it’ll be a snowman.
he traces the outline
still.

Three
amazingly fat women
sit at the next table, here in the
McDonald’s with Playland
without any children.
So close I can hear them talk.
at least snippets.
Recipes – they are trading
“I get these headaches,” one squawks
“Then I go eat me some chocolate.”
Hmmmmmmmm – the others intone
worshipfully.

Nick and Lee want ice cream
I give them all the cash
I have
and send them to the counter.
They come back with cones
and a single dollar bill
and three pennies.
One so sticky I leave it behind.

A young mother
excites into her cell phone
in Spanish.

A toddler drops her
Orange Drink.
The thin liquid puddle grows
as she stares mute

An older man- a customer
cleans it up.
A teenager- a worker
appears with a mop and bucket.
“Don’t touch that!”
The old man growls.
He rants on about how dirty
the mop water is-
and cleans up the mess
with his own cloth handkerchief.

He must be nuts.
Nobody carries a cloth handkerchief.
Anymore.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Appearances are Deceptive, by Mary Papas

from the Short Story Society and Flash Fiction Society

Sunday Snippet, Trouble by Bill Chance

“If trouble comes when you least expect it then maybe the thing to do is to always expect it.”

― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Kids love the reflecting pool. The water is less than a quarter inch deep.

One day he said he picked up a “warning.”
“What did you do?”
“I dunno.”
“Did you forget to raise your hand?”
“Nope”
“Did you break a rule?”
“Yeah, that’s it. I must have broke a rule. If you break a rule, you get in trouble. I got in trouble, so I must have broke a rule.”
“Do you remember what rule you broke?”
“Nope.”


He went on to say he didn’t like it when somebody was in trouble
“Cause the teacher STARES at us!”
A demonstration was made of the teacher’s stare, eyes narrowed, brows lowered, forehead slightly knotted.

It was pretty scary.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, 100 Word Story, The Phone Call, by Janice Siderius

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

― Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, September 8, 2001 – Exactly twenty years ago. Wow… only twenty years ago… and coming up only three days from 9/11. It’s so strange reading my thoughts from the point of view of a semi-distant future. I talk about getting a new cell phone and a Pocket PC. An iPhone or a Smart Phone only a dream of the future..I (we) had no idea.

Saturday, September 8, 2001, Gadgets

The folks at work, in all their infinite wisdom, have bought me a couple of new cool toys lately.

I try to resist the temptation of becoming a gadget-freak. A fascination with technology is a powerful, seductive trap in this day and age, this best of all possible worlds. The underlying geek-gene is there, though, I can’t deny it. Plus, if somebody else wants to buy me cool stuff… so be it.

I was one of the last hold-outs against having a cell phone. When I finally picked one up with my new job, however, I was hooked. Especially with all the soccer stuff going on, with Candy and I hardly ever being home, driving all over the place, and with me stepping up my business travel, the cell phone became, finally for me, the irreplaceable part of life that it is for everybody else.

Now, they have replaced my run-of-the-mill phone with a new service, one designed for corporate, industrial use. It’s a Nextel phone, with the two-way radio and, especially seductive, internet access. I had to attend a training class, read a big thick manual, and spend hours punching little buttons and fooling around on web sites to set up and learn all the features of the silly thing.

I always thought web access on a cell phone was sort of useless, but it does have its geeky charm. I especially like the movie service. I can code in a film, punch in a zip code, and it will tell me the closest theater and show times, along with directions to get there. It has an amazing word-completion algorithm for entering emails from the otherwise-almost-useless numberpad.

The only problem is that it does not play cool songs when it rings (I had my old phone set to play the theme song from the old puppet TV show – Thunderbirds are Go). When I complained about this to our phone rep she replied, “This phone is intended for the corporate market, we don’t go for the cute sing-song stuff.”

The really cool gadget they bought me, though, wasn’t the cell phone, but a Pocket PC – a Compaq IPAQ. Compaq is apparently discontinuing the black and white units, offering them for an insanely low price, plus a fifty-dollar rebate, so I ordered one.

I think I like this one better than a color unit anyway. The screen is readable enough and the batteries last forever.

A Pocket PC definitely falls into the category of one of those things that you can’t imagine using until you get one, then you can’t imagine living without it. Especially Syncing it up with my PC – downloading maps, Avant Go,… geez, the free ebooks. It isn’t much for writing fiction or journal entries (my Alphasmart is perfect for that, anyway) but it is fine for writing short poems. The slow process of handwriting recognition actually helps the poetry process.

It’s a digital voice recorder and an alarm clock. It’s a crude sketchpad and a file transfer utility.

Of course, like all things addictive, there are add-ons and additions I want. At the top of the list is a big flashcard memory or two. That would let me use it as a killer MP3 player, perfect portable music. Next, a Targus folding keyboard – then I could use it for significant text entry. Then, especially in conjunction with that flashcard, there’s software. I’d love a powerful dictionary and thesaurus program. There’s even something out there that will turn the IPAQ into a programmable multi-function remote control.

Now that’s a gadget addiction.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

The Phone Call, by Janice Siderius

Sunday Snippet, Emprise by Bill Chance

“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, the Whale

Sailboats on White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

Emprise

The thing is, in an isolated tiny town like New Solace, thrown out there lonely in the ice cold windswept plains, there weren’t very many opportunities to meet someone that you might desire. Anyone was lucky to find one. Stan and Emilia were lucky, but there was no other choice. Since they were infants, born on opposite sides of town yet less than a mile away, seven days apart, it was assumed they would grow up to be a couple. Not because of any imagined or real compatibility of their personalities, but because there simply was nobody else.

They married the day after they graduated from high school. Neither of them had ever seen the ocean so for their honeymoon they went to a warm, humid coastal town and decided never to go back to New Solace, even if it was home and they were needed at harvest time.

Stan found work stocking the shelves at a hardware store and Emilia worked in the grade school cafeteria, making huge pots of mashed potatoes and gravy. “Gravy?” she’d ask the children in front of her as they moved through the line with their trays with the already-filled ladle in her hand. They would make fun of her accent that had floated a thousand miles down from the far north. She came home from work hours before Stan and one day, she was waiting for him in front of their apartment building.

“Come walk with me, I’ve bought something,” she said. They had always been very proud of their apartment, although it was too small, cheap, and rundown… it was only a block from the ocean. There was a litter-spoiled bit of beach and a small marina – as cheap and rundown as their apartment. Emilia led Stan to the marina and asked him to close his eyes.

“What? I don’t want to fall off the dock.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got your arm.”

They walked out over the water and then Emilia let Stan open his eyes. There was a moldy looking sailboat, resting at a slight angle in the water, tied to the Marina with old, greenish ropes.

“What do you think?” she said.

“What does this have to do with us?”

“I bought it,” she said, “While you were at work. Don’t worry, it was a great deal, we can afford it.”

“But what?”

“It’s a Catalina 22, a very common boat. We can fix it up, parts are available and cheap. We can go on an adventure.”

And that’s what they did. Stan was very handy with tools and had a nice discount at the hardware store where he worked. He scraped and painted and varnished and replaced. It was a lot of work and took almost a year but slowly the boat began to look like a shiny new vessel. Emila wasn’t very good with her hands and she figured her part was the planning stages. She was constantly looking up destinations and strategies. After consulting a bulky thesaurus she announced they would name the boat “Emprise.” Stan made a note to himself to look word up and see what it meant – but he never did.

“I think we need to sign up for sailing lessons,” said Stan.

“Naw, we don’t need that.”

“I think we do, they are available at the yacht club,” said Stan.

“Why? All that stuff is available online.”

The boat was gleaming, supposedly seaworthy, and almost finished. Stan took a few days off for the final touches. The afternoon was warm and he was exhausted when he fell asleep in the small cabin. He woke feeling the boat moving in an odd way and stuck his head out up and looked around. All he could see was waves. The sails overhead were out and Emilia was at the tiller grinning from ear to ear.

“While you were asleep, I decided to take ‘er out.”

“Where are we going?”

“I figured we’d do a loop, find an anchorage for the night.”

“But you don’t know what you’re doing!”

“It’s simple.”

But it wasn’t. Emilia wasn’t even sure how to read the compass – it wasn’t nearly as stable as it was in the instructional videos she had watched. The wind kept switching directions and getting stronger and stronger.

“Did you check the weather?” asked Stan.

“Why? Not a cloud in the sky.”

“There is now.”

They never found an anchorage and had to sail blindly into the night. In the pitch blackness the wind and waves rose and rose until they were caught in a full-fledged storm. The hot rain poured down and the warm sea flung itself up until the boat felt like it was being ground to pieced between the two and propelled by the wind over the edge of the world. Stan was beyond terrified and resigned to death several times. Luckily, in the darkness he could not see the eternal grin plastered across Emilia’s face and he would misinterpret her whoops of joy as cries of terror.

Stan woke to the morning heat of the rising sun to the confusion of feeling an odd texture under his body. He realized it was sand and he had been thrown onto a beach next to the broken sailboat.

“Stan, wake up!” Emilia was walking around, seemingly no worse for wear.

“We’re on an island,” she said. “I thought I’d let you sleep. I’ve been walking around, and it looks like there’s a house a bit down the shore. There’s smoke coming out of the chimney.”

Stan had never felt such a weary pain in every bone as he hauled himself up and walked with Emilia to the house about a mile from where they boat had floundered.

They knocked on the door and an older woman answered right away.

“Come on in, I have some coffee and breakfast,” she said as if they were expected.

The woman was Alice and she had lived on the island for ten years, five alone, since her husband has passed away. They walked together down the beach and looked long and hard at the boat but it was beyond salvage.

“Shame,” Alice said. “It looked like such a nice little boat. Can’t be helped, though.”

“But what can we do now?” asked Stan.

“Well, for one thing, you can stay here as long as you need to, or want to. I can use a handyman to keep up with repairs, the yahoos that come out from the mainland are all useless or thieves. There’s plenty of room. Plenty to eat. I can use some company.”

“Sounds great,” said Emilia.

“But we were looking for an adventure,” said Stan.

“But, you see, there are more ways to have an adventure than to go off across the world,” replied Alice.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, 4 A.M. Burrito, by Avalon Dziak

Eating a burrito is like eating a living, breathing organism – you can feel the burrito’s ingredients sigh inside with each bite, each squeeze.”

― Gustavo Arellano

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, August 31, 2001 – Exactly twenty years ago. As I look back 20 years ago… I’m coming up close to September 11, 2001.

Burrito

I’ve been trying,
lately,
to work hard in finding the hard truth
in everything.

But what,
possibly,
could be the hard truth
in a fast food burrito?

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

4 A.M. Burrito, by Avalon Dziak

From Flash Fiction Magazine