Sunday Snippet, You May Already Be A Weiner by Bill Chance

“Fame you’ll be famous, as famous as can be, with everyone watching you win on TV, Except when they don’t because sometimes they won’t..”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

You May Already Be A Weiner

Doyle Nash knew life would be tough when he decided he would make a career as an actor, that he would have to take every opportunity to make a buck – but this was too much. He stood naked in the rusty metal shed behind the hotdog and custard shop – Jerome’s Hot & Cold – facing Jerome, the owner. There wasn’t much space and they were way too close to each other for Doyle’s comfort.

“Hey, I don’t see why I couldn’t at least keep my underwear on,” said Doyle.

“Costume’s too tight, once you’re in you’ll be glad you went commando. Here, put these on, that’ll make you feel better.”

It didn’t. The shabby looking yellow tights were too loose, had lost their elastic, and made of some cheap fabric that started to itch something awful as soon as Doyle pulled them up around his waist.

“Okay, now. Let’s get you in,” Jerome said. He reached up to the top of a mottled tan curve, like a leaky canoe leaning up against the wall. There was a ragged clatter as he pulled a rusty zipper down to the ground.

“Step in, and I’ll zip you up.”

Doyle pressed his face into the zippered opening and Jerome gave him a shove from behind.

“There, now, lift your legs up through those holes… your arms go in there.”

Doyle fought back panic, blinded by the mass of the costume, until his face popped out through an oval in the front. He felt Jerome strap some elastic band tight behind his head until his eyes bugged. He stepped up into the leg holes and his arms wriggled through some sort of tubes. There was the groan of a zipper from behind and the costume closed around him.

“Okay, back up now, lift it, it’s got some weight but it’s not as heavy as it seems. Now turn, let’s get you out of the shed and see how you look.” Jerome managed to shove Doyle and the costume outside where he stood up fully.

Doyle was encased within a long red cylinder – a hot dog, with his face poking out a hole near the top. His legs emerged at an odd angle, forcing him to waddle around. Around his back was a giant fiberglass and foam bun and his arms flailed out from between the two parts.

“Hey this is really uncomfortable!” Doyle cried. The curve of the hotdog kept him hunched over, already his back was beginning to throb. He tried to reach the zipper in the back of the bun, but his hands couldn’t come close.

“I can’t reach the zipper! I’m trapped in here!”

“That’s the idea,” said Jerome. “That way you have to stand out here and get customers into my store. Otherwise you’d bolt. Here’s your sign.”

The sign said, Jerome’s Hold and Cold on one side, and Hot Dogs and Frozen Custard on the other. Doyle took it and stabbed the air with it.

Outside of Wild About Harry’s Deep Ellum Dallas Texas

“Hey, I just thought of something. What if I have to take a piss?”

“There, on the front.”

Doyle looked down and found a rectangular patch Velcroed into the front of the hot dog.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. I don’t think it’s in the right spot.”

“It’s close enough. Figure it out. Now get out there and start walking up and down. I’m paying you to drum up business, not to goof around.”

“I’m not sure I can do this. I’m an actor, sure, but this….”

“Don’t worry, you’ll do better than the last pair.”

“Last pair?”

“Yeah I had a custard costume too. This couple – Matilda and her boyfriend Hubert – they seemed awfully happy to do this. Too happy as it turned out.”

“What happened?”

“Turns out they were really, really into costumes. You know what I mean? On their second day, as soon as I turned my back, they sneaked off down the alley, into that blind spot behind the closed Chinese restaurant. You wouldn’t believe what I caught them at down there.”

“Oh, God…” Doyle stared with despair at the Velcro flap on the front of the hot dog.

“Yeah,” Jerome said, “Ruined a perfectly good custard costume too, tore it to shreds. Now, you’re on your own.”

Despondent and morose, Jerome waddled out to the sidewalk and started to figure out how to best hold the sign.

“Hey look at the hot dog!” shouted a crude voice from across the street. “Yeah, lookit… Haw Haw!”

Doyle looked over and saw two men wearing stained canvas shoes, tattered knee-length shorts and filthy olive drab military surplus jackets, rolling back and forth on the sidewalk in front of a butcher’s supply company, pointing and laughing at him. Both had long, dirty hair matted into irregular dreadlocks.

“Damn gutterpunks,” Jerome said, “Watch out for them two – they’re over there selling crack again. They’ll rob you or anything that moves if they think they can get away with it. Scared Hubert and Matilda half to death.”

“What the hell can I do about it?”

“Well for one thing, take your wallet here.” Jerome retrieved it from the pile of clothes in the shed, “And keep it on you, I’ve seen those two snooping around the shed before.”

Doyle held the wallet in his hand, “Where can I keep this?”

“Oh, there’s a pocket built into the costume, right under your left arm, between the dog and the bun.”

Doyle felt for the pocket and shoved his wallet inside, being careful to turn so that the two gutterpunks couldn’t see. As his hand slid inside he felt a couple of objects already there, one hard and irregular, the other a soft rectangle. Hubert, in his haste and excitement, must have left some stuff behind. Doyle thought it best to wait until Jerome was inside before he checked it out.

So Doyle started waddling up and down the sidewalk in front of the joint, waving his sign in as non-threatening a manner as he could. Still, it seemed like he was scaring more people, especially the children that might enjoy some frozen custard, than he was attracting.

Every time he passed the two gutterpunks across the street they would shout obscenities at him. They seemed to have a series of rude hot dog jokes already prepared – Doyle guessed that they had worked these out at Hubert and previous walking dogs. He imagined they were disappointed that there wasn’t a female in a custard costume any more.

After a couple of hours, Doyle was trying to decide if the costume or the boredom was the worst part of the job when he remembered the items he felt in the pocket. At one end of his walk, he leaned his sign against the building and turned to hide himself. Fishing his hand in, he withdrew a good-sized ziplock full of what looked like poor-quality weed and a small, cheap, twenty two caliber revolver – the kind they call a Saturday Night Special. It felt so tiny in his hands, but he checked and confirmed it was loaded.

He supposed that Hubert was afraid of the gutterpunks and decided to pack some protection. As far as the weed – Doyle decided that the next day he might bring a pipe and look for that hidden blind alley where Hubert and Matilda had their ill-fated tryst.

He stuffed everything back into the pocket and began his monotonous back and forth, trying to think of something, anything, other than where he was and what he was doing.

Doyle’s reverie was interrupted by the squeal of tires and a loud thud. Looking up he saw that a big black Tahoe had run up on the curb across the street and slammed to a stop.

Radio Antenna Hot Dog Man – I don’t remember where I took this.

The two gutterpunks immediately started running down the sidewalk. The passenger door opened and a huge man wearing a crisp leather jacket slid out and using the door as protection and a gun rest, leveled a mean looking submachine gun and fired a burst at the retreating gutterpunks. Doyle saw the two tumble to the ground in a spray of blood and ricocheting bullets.

Stunned by the murder he just witnessed, Doyle stood stock still until the man turned and looked right at him. He began to swivel his gun and Doyle realized the guy didn’t want any witnesses, no matter how silly they were dressed. He turned to see Jerome quickly locking the front door of the Hot & Cold from the inside and sliding down under a booth.

His instincts told him to run, but the costume would only allow a waddle. He began to totter and weave when the burst of fire hit him. It felt like a giant hand shoving him in the back as he jerked forward and fell into the parking lot.

Doyle cursed his bad luck as he waited for the pain of the machine gun bullets. It didn’t come. He realized that the fiberglass shell of the hot dog bun and the thick foam underneath must be, at least somewhat, bulletproof. As he rolled he saw the man still coming, running across the street, with his gun raised. Doyle’s hand reached into the pocket for the little twenty two and as he spun onto his back, raised his arm and fired.

A tiny handgun may be no match for a submachine gun, but the bullets are still deadly. Doyle saw a red circle appear on the man’s forehead as he pitched forward, falling right on top of Doyle, now stuck on his back like a turtle. The machine gun rattled to the ground.

Looking back to the street, Doyle saw, to his horror, the driver’s side door opening. He heaved the dead man off his chest, grabbed the machine gun, and used it to lever himself up to his knees. Then, grunting with all his strength against the weight of the ungainly costume, he rose to one knee, then stood.

Doyle barely had time to turn away before the fusillade from the driver blasted into the armor of his costume’s bun. Absorbing the shock, he crabbed sideways and shot the submachine gun into the side of the Tahoe.

That suppressed the driver’s fire for a second and Doyle tried to waddle his way to safety but another burst came and buried itself into his bun.

Suddenly a wave of anger came over Doyle and he turned again and fired. Instead of a short burst, though, he kept shooting. Letting out a hideous roar of fury, fear, and humiliation he tottered as fast as he could toward the Tahoe, spraying bullets.

The sight of a machine gun firing giant hot dog, complete with armored bun, running at him and screaming was too much for the driver. He turned and tried to flee as Doyle gunned him down. Without mercy.

His anger spent, Doyle saw the blue lights of the police as they sped down the street toward him. The machine gun clattered as he dropped it in the street. The cops screeched to a stop and leapt out, guns drawn.

“Put your hands on top of your… hot dog!”

Doyle complied. The cops tried to cuff him behind his back, then gave up and put his hands in front,

“Wait, wait, he’s innocent.” It was Jerome coming out of the Hot & Cold. “It was self-defense. Hey! We better unzip him. Uh, I’ll fetch his clothes.”

“Now you come out,” said Doyle.

Doyle noticed two bystanders huddled behind a low brick wall down the street. They were both standing there, phones held in front of them, filming.

“Oh, great. This is going to go big on YouTube now, isn’t it.” he said to the cops.

“Serious publicity,” said Jerome as he fetched the sign and waved it in front of the filming bystanders.

Doyle sat on his couch and remoted to one of the true crime channels. At first he wasn’t going to watch the show, but the more he thought about it, he decided he couldn’t really miss the thing.

Sure enough, they had everything wrong. The worst thing was the actor in the show was zipped into a giant peanut suit.

“A peanut! I wish. A peanut would be a piece of cake.”

Of course he had tried out for the part on the show, to play himself. The producers had given him an audition. Doyle figured it was only a courtesy. In the end they said he “Just wasn’t right for the part.”

That was when Doyle decided the acting thing wasn’t going to work out. When he can’t even get a job playing himself, well, it was time to pack it in.

He had taken a job as a salesman in his father’s car dealership. It seemed to make his dad happy. He shook his head at how he had ended up. He had always hated those salesmen and couldn’t believe how they had to run around in those cheap suits all day.

Now, of course, he realized that there were worse things you might have to wear to work.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, On the Origin of Species by Lee Thomas

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Trees reflected in a pond, inverted, with Chihuly, Red Reeds

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, September 6, 1998.

Experience an “Earthquake” Sensation

I’m sitting here typing on my laptop and trying to read a book I checked out from the library: “Endurance – Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing. It’s a non-fiction account of an expedition that tried to reach the South Pole in 1915, only to be caught in the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. It took several years for them to escape the ice and to be rescued. I saw a show about this on cable TV a couple weeks ago, and was fascinated.

I’m glad to find this story. It meets my criteria of enjoying reading about disasters while mollifying my concern over becoming too morbid. I know from the TV show that, despite incredible odds and terrible hardships, everyone survives.

I’m afraid my own challenge and adventure is quite a bit more pedestrian today, like every day. This is the centerpiece of a prized three day weekend, one dominated by a soccer tournament held in Arlington, Texas (A large city, a suburb of the Metroplex, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, about forty miles of city freeway driving from our house in Mesquite).

We played a game at nine o’clock this morning, and have another at one this afternoon. The Wildcats won the early game handily (seven to nothing, five different players, including Nick, scored). The afternoon game will be much more difficult, I doubt we can play with our opponent. This morning I saw them dominate a team we tied yesterday.

The real struggle isn’t with the other team, though (the kids have fun whether they win or lose), it is against the weather. The heat continues at an unbelievable level. Friday was 108 here, a record high for any day in any September. At our house, we haven’t had a drop of rain since early June. Yesterday wasn’t too bad, it was hot, but dry and windy. Today it is calm, hot again and very, very humid.

So between games we brought a bunch of the kids here, to a newish Burger King at Interstate 20 and Great Southwest Parkway, so they can play inside in the cold AC of the playland. The plastic structure towers three stories high, tunnels and slides and padded slopes. It is supported by a cubical scaffold – a lattice of steel pipes covered with bright foam padding held tight with plastic cable ties. Black nylon mesh sides and blue soft floors. Bright colors everywhere, Plexiglas bubble windows smeared with children’s handprints of catsup and hamburger grease. Screams and running, stockinged feet (and for our kids – shin guards), French fries and cold drinks and plastic bags with clever little toys. A blue fabric holder, pockets crammed full of children’s shoes.

There is a sign on the giant structure:

EARTHQUAKE TUNNEL
THE ABOVE PLAY EQUIPMENT IS FREE MOVING SO CHILDREN MAY EXPERIENCE AN “EARTHQUAKE” SENSATION

I’m sitting at a table with my book and my laptop. Next to me is a window to a special room set aside, a little girl is having a party in there; presents, camcorders, the kids all wear gold paper crowns. A parent just brought in a purple bicycle with training wheels and a basket.

Every couple of minutes a child in a red soccer uniform will pass by where I can get at ’em and I’ll repeat my mantra “Stop screaming, watch out for the little kids in there!” Candy and the other parents are all out in the main part of the Burger King (I had typed “restaurant” there, but it didn’t look right), chatting, relying on me to keep some kind of an eye on the kids. They should rest before the next game but I know better than to expect that.

They are playing some sort of tag and hide-and-seek. I hear screams of “Who’s It?” and “I’m on the base!” The noise is incredible. The floor of the room is tile, the walls glass, the plastic tubes amplify the hootn’ and hollerin’. The sound bounces and grows. A high pitched deafening cacophony.

The music of my life.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

On the Origin of Species by Lee Thomas

from New Millennium

Lee Thomas Page

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Vicarious Transubtantiation, by Emilee Prado

“No one motorist can cause a traffic jam. But no traffic jam can exist without individual motorists. We are stuck in traffic because we are the traffic. The ways we live our lives, the actions we take and don’t take, can feed the systemic problems, and they can also change them…”

― Jonathan Safran Foer, We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday, December 14, 1998.

The City at Night

….. I’m writing another entry sitting in the van, waiting in a parking lot. This time it’s a long way from home. I have a focus group at eight thirty, on the tenth floor of a big office building, at Park Central on the northern arc of Dallas’ LBJ freeway loop. I have better things to do with my time than sit here, but they’ll pay me a hundred dollars, cash. Allowing an hour to get here, it only took twenty minutes, so I found this lot in a commercial strip right off Central Expressway. About a half hour to kill before I drive back to the building, that’s how long the batteries in this old Dell can hold out.

I had wanted to go exercise after work and there is a club located between there and here. I forgot my damn shoes again, can’t very well work out in steel-toed safety boots, so I stayed in my office a couple hours late. Time is becoming so precious, it drove me nuts. Nowhere to go, no money, nothing much to do (I was so sick of work, it was tough to get anything extra accomplished). So I sat and did some light computer stuff and watched the hands turn.

At least the van is a good place to type. The middle bench seat is roomy enough for me to hold the laptop on my lap, there is enough stray light from the parking lot to illuminate the keys without washing out the screen. Also, the van isn’t stalling. I was about to give up yesterday, when I put another fresh tank of fuel in her, and presto- no more problems. My guess is that the recent cold snap condensed water into the gas tank, it took a refill to work itself out.

Across the street from here is a big hospital. This is where both Nick and Lee were born. It seems like I’ve been there a hundred times, for childbirth classes, medical emergencies, routine checkups. We don’t have the HMO anymore, so we don’t come back here now. One reason I dropped it was because I was concerned about the drive from Mesquite, it scared me to think of Candy driving over here in the awful traffic with a sick kid strapped in beside her.

The traffic is scary. The intersection of LBJ and Central may be the busiest in the Metroplex, maybe the country. Lines of white, lines of red. Going either seventy or stopped. I constantly look at these thousands and thousands of cars speeding past and wonder where all these people are going. What are their dreams? Are they happy? Do they really want to go where their car is pointing? Why are they in such a hurry to get there?

Honk! Honk! Honk! The car alarm on a big sedan is going off. A woman gets out. Is it her car? Is she confused by the alarm and can’t shut it off? Or is she stealing the thing? I don’t care. It stops, she gets back in. Nobody calls the police. There the car goes.

Behind this strip, this line of office supplies, fast food Chinese, medical equipment, and podiatrist, is the dark slash of a creek. I know that linear wilderness better than I know the wild street; the White Rock bicycle trail runs back there. It starts five miles to the south at the lake and winds along the creek embankment, using the floodplain to cut through these civilized islands unseen and undisturbed. The day was dry and warm, I wish I had my bike and was able to get some late season fresh air back there today. Or I wish I had a nice light and could run the trail now. Swooshing along in the dark, heart pumping, legs pumping.

Oh, well.

I think I’d better wrap this up, save the file and get going. I’m not sure exactly where to park (there is a maze of garages around the office complex) and I don’t want to be late. They won’t give me my money.

Thanks for listening to me ramble, thanks for helping me kill a few minutes away from home, thanks for the memories and the city at night.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Vicarious Transubtantiation, by Emilee Prado

from Hobart

Emilee Prado Instagram

Emilee Prado Page

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, A Girl Forages for Mushrooms, by Ruth Joffre

“All Fungi are edible.

Some fungi are only edible once.”
― Terry Pratchett

Mushrooms along the creek in back of my house.
Huffhines Creek in back of my house, Richardson, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, May 12, 2002.

Walk (snippet)

Everything was warm and wet and near the end of my walk I came across a field of mushrooms. I’ve always wanted to be able to tell poison fungi from delicious. It would be so cool to be able to go out to a field and pick a few, carry them home and make an omelet. I picked one out and put it in my pocket – to take home for no particular reason. I thought of Lee and how he is always picking up rocks, feathers, old bones, or anything else useless to haul around and pile in old shoeboxes.

I know where he gets that from.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

A Girl Forages for Mushrooms, by Ruth Joffre

from Flash Fiction Online

Ruth Joffre Twitter

Ruth Joffre Page

Sunday Snippet, The Last Lifeboat by Bill Chance

“- John Kovac: Lady, you certainly don’t look like somebody that’s just been shipwrecked.

– Connie Porter: Man, I certainly feel like it.”

—-Lifeboat

lifeboat propeller

The Last Lifeboat

Willis was on a cruise ship in the South Pacific, on the way from Bora Bora to Tahiti, when the asteroid struck.

As you know, the impact site was in the Atlantic, almost exactly on the opposite side of the world from Willis and his cruise ship. The North and South American continents protected them from the massive waves. Secondary meteorites, mostly hunks of seabed thrown into space to rain back down, were falling around them, but the sea seemed so vast it was more of fantastic light show than a real fear.

Most of the population of the main continents died out from the enormous Tsunamis and the fire raining down fairly quickly. It took days for the impact to impact their part of the world (sitting on miles of water depth, even the earthquakes were not felt).

There was increasing panic onboard as the radio contacts from all over the world went silent, one by one, with frightening rapidity. A cruise ship is largely self-contained – but the supplies wouldn’t last forever.

Willis wasn’t sure what sank the ship. Maybe it was struck by a random rock screaming down from the sky. Some said the crew went mad and scuttled the ship.

Willis had always taken the lifeboat drills too seriously, but this time it served him well. He made it to one of the enclosed survival boats and had it lowered and adrift just as the giant liner slipped beneath the salty waves.

There were about twenty souls on the craft. Looking around, they did not see any other boats. Some people must have been caught unaware, most probably didn’t care enough to save themselves. There was a lot, and I mean a lot, of drinking going on.

Now that this tiny craft was all that was left of the world to them, the twenty searched the emergency locker to see what they had. Unfortunately, a crewman seemed to have been making the vessel his home, an extra private cabin.

The survival supplies on the lifeboat had been replaced by an impressive bag of cocaine and a generous supply of shockingly violent gay porn magazines.

They were adrift in a trackless ocean without emergency flares or signal mirrors. Which was fine because there was nobody to signal. But panic began to set in when they discovered emergency biscuit ration and containers of fresh water were gone too. But there was the tiny engine and some diesel fuel, and when that ran out, there were oars. The compass was missing and they didn’t know what direction to go – but they used the sun and the stars to row in more or less a straight line, straight into the unknown.

Of the original twenty, ten, including Willis, were still alive when the top of a ragged volcanic peak poked above the horizon. It was a harrowing row across waves, rocks, and jagged razor-sharp corals to get to the beach and the line of coconut palms. Nobody knew how many people were left in the rest of the word (as you know, there were very, very few) but a healthy number had made it through the rain of fire on the island.

The lifeboat survivors were forced to trade with the natives. Willis was surprised to find out that the cocaine, though valuable, was less in demand that the pornographic magazines. The residents of the island had never seen publications of this type. They said, “The internet is just not the same.” And, of course, the internet was gone now… paper, as information and stimulation was again the gold standard.

A decade later, Willis found himself in the unexpected role of “King” of the island. The little society had not only survived, but it had thrived. But they were multiplying and it was obvious that their island, their little piece of paradise, was going to be too small soon, very soon. So Willis started a project to rehabilitate the little enclosed lifeboat. They stocked it with food, rudimentary sails, and a crew that knew how to row.

Then, at dawn, with the sea calm and the trade winds blowing, a chosen set of twenty set out again, to rediscover and repopulate the world.

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, This Is How You Fail To Ghost Him, by Ash Reynolds

“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”

― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Flora Street, Dallas, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday, February 15, 1999. It is so weird to read about my reaction to technology from (only) twenty years ago.

Eyelid rub

Shit, what a long, tiring day. Oh, look at the top of the page, it’s a Monday. No wonder.

I sat the morning through a two hour Lotus Notes class, a professional trainer, twenty years younger than me explained in excruciating detail everything I already knew and displayed his ability to scrunch up his nose when I asked a question.

Meanwhile, the hourly folks in the class had a lot of trouble. I really felt sorry for them, the instructor would rattle off, “click here, go back, minimize.” He would always say click when he should have said double click. Not that the poor hourly guys can double click anyway. They are used to terminal emulators with tacked up dog-eared Xerox copies of lists of odd key combinations. They’ll be alright, they’ll get gooey eventually. Those tough callused hands trying to push a mouse around, that look of confusion; it’s a difficult world.

I spent most of the class leaning slightly forward with my eyes closed rubbing the corners of my lids.

The rest of the workday was meetings. More lid-rubbing.

I didn’t really do anything, did I? I sure was exhausted when I came home. My head was splitting, my right ear isn’t working again, I should have gone to a cycling class, but I booted. I should have played with the kids, worked on the garage, written some stuff, read some chapters, but I didn’t.

All I managed to do was flounder around horizontally, watching some sports on TV.

And rubbing the corners of my eyelids ’til the headache finally went away.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

This Is How You Fail To Ghost Him, by Victoria McCurdy

from Monkeybicycle

Victoria McCurdy Twitter

Sunday Snippet, Tiny Courtesies by Bill Chance

“You have carjacking back in old England?”

“Carjacking?”

“People walk up to you, steal your car.”

“No, but thanks for asking. We have people who clean your windscreen against your will, but, er…”

Joe barked with contempt.

“The thing is,” explained Dirk, “in London you could certainly walk up to someone and steal their car, but you wouldn’t be able to drive it away.”

“Some kinda fancy device?”

“No, just traffic,” said Dirk.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Highway 75 at Sunset (click to enlarge)

Tiny Courtesies

The end of the week, danced around plenty o’ disasters (mostly rain related) at work, he feels alittle lucky. But sooner or later the bear’ll getya son, so he had better keep a keep eye out.

Driving in to his place of gainful employment was a springtime storm adventure. The faithful AM radio traffic newspeople (no choppers up today, though) talked to him from the waterproof clock radio in the shower, warning of accidents on the I635 loop and at La Prada & Gus Thomasson (his two direct routes into work) so he mazed his way through middleworkingclass two bedroom neighborhoods. Lots of running water, had to be careful, flash floods will kill ya. Looking through the blurrr of defective needreplacing rubber oscillating blades, his eyes gauging depth of street rapids, waves, rills, whitecaps where only asphalt should be, alternating the ventilation from too hot defogger as long as he can stand to cooler direct blowing outside air ’till the windshield fogs and he can’t see, back to the heat. Cycles oscillating: blades, ventilation, radio stations (The Edge, Classic, Stern, Talk, News, Sports).

At Motley and Gus Thomasson he had to make a bad left in front of Fazio’s Discount Emporium. It’s a left into six lanes of traffic, no light, only a red octagon. In front of him was a school bus. Now a little disposable paidfor dented car can inch out dodging through a turn like this (who wants to live forever). But a school bus has to wait for all six lanes to clear, there isn’t enough room for them to wait in the median. They sat like that, he was watching four kids in the back window, for twenty minutes. He wanted to yell, “Go for it, they’ll stop, nobody’ll ram a schoolbus for Christssake!” But he didn’t cut to the left, go around, though he wanted to and thought about it. He waited his turn though he was late for work.He began to realize that little bits of civilization, tiny courtesies, are what are missed, are important.

Especially when nobody knows (though I guess that y’all know now, don’t you).

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Thankful, by Ash Reynolds

“Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I’ve got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night.”

― Irving Berlin

Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday, March 01, 1999.

Lunchtime

It’s lunchtime on Monday, the first day of a new month.

The calendar might say it’s still winter but you’d never know by looking around. The temperature might get to eighty today but it’s ’round seventy-two right now, as perfect as can be. Candy gave me a dollar and I found seventy -some cents in the floorboards so I could afford two bean burritos. So I drove to the little park near my work and am sitting at my green picnic table. The winter sun burns down through the leafless trees, warm on my skin. It also washes out the screen of the laptop, hard to see, hard to type; but that might be my only complaint. Even my pager, my ever present belt-bee, is quiet today, I hope he stays that way for awhile.

Two little girls are at the new playground with their mom. It’s sort of a cheap, little playground, but the girls don’t seem to mind, they’re giggling up a storm. There is this green spiral pipe, set vertically around another central pipe. I think it is intended to be used as a ladder. The girls are small enough that they can slide down this spiral, spinning ’round and ’round.


“OK! Here I go!” one calls out and twists down, spinning like a loose wingnut on a bolt.

I wonder what about this day these little girls will remember when they are my age. The spiral will be a tall tower, not a six foot piece of pipe. Will they remember the weather? Of course not. I never thought about the weather when I was little, never thought about if it was hot or cold or raining or snowing. Well, I guess I thought about it if it was snowing. That was something special.

I splurged yesterday and bought myself an insulated-stainless-steel-spillproof-tapered-on-the-bottom-to-fit-most-cup-holders drinking cup. It was an impulse purchase, on a display in the aisle when I went out to buy some drain cleaner. When I found out it cost twelve dollars I almost put it back. I can afford it, but I’ve been well conditioned to the “thousands of starving third world children that can’t even afford a plastic spill-proof mug, let alone a stainless-steel one,” feelings of guilt about spending more that five dollars on something that I don’t actually need.

But I bought it anyway.

There’s a little blue paper, a flyer, on the ground by the trash can, let’s see what it is.

It’s from a local church, the Praise and Prayer Notes from yesterday. The scripture on it is from Revelation which is usually not a good sign, but this little note is fine.

A list of things to be thankful for:

  • C… N… is back from Russia and feeling better,
  • D…K… is recovering from a triple bypass,
  • J…A… has been accepted at Multnomah Bible College,
  • B…E… says that L… has been seizure free for 6 months and is driving again.

This is followed by a list of things to pray for:

  • M…S… is six months old and may need surgery, pray for the doctor’s appointment on March 15th,
  • R…P… has had an asthma flareup,
  • S… W… needs sale of property and finances for a wedding,
  • J… B… died in a skiing accident ten days ago.

I think I’ll praise this warm, quiet hour. The feel of the sun, the sound of the birds. The cheap, spicy burrito. My steel cup of ice and Dr. Pepper that doesn’t leak.

I think I’ll pray for those two little girls, pray that in forty years they remember how happy they were sliding down that green spiral. I pray they don’t lose those giggles.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Thankful, by Ash Reynolds

from love letters magazine

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

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.