Sunday Snippet, Poem, the wind bottle by Bill Chance

“A little muzhik was working on the railroad, mumbling in his beard.

And the candle by which she had read the book that was filled with fears, with deceptions, with anguish, and with evil, flared up with greater brightness than she had ever known, revealing to her all that before was in darkness, then flickered, grew faint, and went out forever.”

― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Civitas, Audrey Flack, 1988, Patinated and gilded bronze with cast glass flame and attached marble base, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

the wind bottle

The candle wax drips down
the wine bottle
wine and spaghetti
fuel
lighted matches
spent, still
smoke on the tabletop

The smell
Grandma and her doilies
light and fire
hot
Watch the kid burn himself

I blow
and watch the smoke
the darkness stringing streaming out

Sunday Snippet, Poem, Warm Water by Bill Chance

“You love me. You ignore me. You save my life, then you cook my mother into soap.”

― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Dallas Arboretum

Warm Water

Complex salts
and surfactants
change the surface tension
make the water smoother
One end loves water
the other oil
The molecules line up, sticking one end in
the other out.
billions and billions in line
to make one tiny
bubble
one unit
of foam.

I know too much
that there isn’t much difference
a chain here
a conjugated double bond
a COOH group there
between lilac
(bath soap)
and the stench of death

maybe that’s the point

Sunday Snippet, Poem, Dust Crew by Bill Chance

“All happiness depends on courage and work.”

― Honoré de Balzac

Heat
Heat

Dust Crew

Six men sleep is a star pattern
feet, boots in against the tree
heads out
the only way
to pull a little shade from the mesquite
tree, thin green lacy thing
hats pulled down over eyes

What rough dreams stream
from such meager shelter?

A pickup brakes up
throwing dust
dirt stringing streaming out
brims tilt for a peek

Everyone jumps
at the boss
OK, off yer asses, y’all’s ten minutes up!”
one yells
in a futile excuse

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, War on the Carpet by Bill Chance

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

M41 Walker Bulldog Liberty Park Plano, Texas

War of the Carpet

There is a war occurring on the carpet tonight. An army of Batmans and Gargoyles are advancing from their living room headquarters around the shelving unit and down the hall. Opposing this formidable armed force is an equally menacing horde of Spidermans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Their base is the guest bathroom which they have fortified with overturned plastic tubs, their former abodes. The generals of the two forces are two giants, each hundreds of feet tall in the measurement of these miniature fighters. The two deadly opponents, brothers, provide the strategy, tactics, rules of engagement, motive force, and most important, sound effects. Their parent assumes the role of Florence Nightingale, because every couple of minutes they are brought some wounded soldier whose missing part must be reattached.

The vehicles of these battling hordes are a motley collection. Eighteen wheelers, plastic airplanes, horses, cows, dinosaurs, conveyances of all ages, and of unmatched scales. Even a little space shuttle does its wartime duty. The generals are now calling for the “Secret Weapons” – yelling and running as the big guns are brought out of their hiding places under the couch and behind the toilet. The Batmobile advances toward the Gotterdammerung occurring in the hallway as a model police car leaves the bathroom, some sort of CHIP chip inside is yelling “Call 911” as the miniature siren wails and the LED’s flash.

“Time for SECRET WEAPON NUMBER TWO” comes the new call. Two more giant plastic tubs are overturned revealing two plastic F-14’s – one for each army, one red, one blue. The slaughter is witnessed by a giant dog, who sits in the corner with his slobbery tennis ball, forlornly staring at the generals, trying to get them to play fetch with him (don’t feel bad for the dog, the generals played with him for half an hour earlier, he’d play fetch 24 hours a day if he could).

Suddenly, a break in the carnage! The generals negotiate a sudden truce. After a bribe of bagels and chocolate milk the warriors retire to watch television.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we stayed this way. All we would have to do in Ukraine is send over some Hershey’s and the newest Disney release.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Scientist by Bill Chance

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
It matters that you don’t just give up.”
― Stephen Hawking

Sign on storefront.

Scientist

Craig walked down the hall past a room full of kids playing video games, one of them asked him, “Are you really a scientist?”
“Yes, I suppose I am.”
“See, I told you,” said Tom, Craig’s son.
“What kind?” asked his friend.
“Well, I’m a chemist… do you know what that means?”
“Nope.”
“Well, I study what happens when you mix things and heat them in certain ways, sort of.”

That’s not a very good answer, he knew. There isn’t a very good way to explain what chemistry is to a kid that doesn’t know what a chemical is. Thinking about it later, Craig should have explained what kind of chemist he was and what his job entailed. He sat down in the TV room to chill for a minute and think about science and what it meant to him.

On the tube was a little documentary. They showed some stuff about Stephen Hawking. Hawking was talking about understanding black holes, the Big Bang, the moment of creation. He talked about grasping the way the universe came into being and said, “and then we will know the mind of God.”

Then, after a commercial break, the documentary changed to a story about a guy that made robots, little six legged guys that imitated life in strange ways. The robot guy said something about robot making maybe being a man thing – men can’t make life, so robots are as close as they get. He discounts that, though, because there are more women than men in his lab.

Craig thought about the creating life thing. Then he thought about Frankenstein. Then about science and knowledge and curiosity.

Creating life isn’t the thing. Any moron can create life. The folks in the trailer park seem to be creating plenty. Or think about a pumpkin seed. Is it alive? Two pumpkin seeds, one live, one not – can you tell the difference?

The important quest isn’t to create life, but to understand it. To somehow know more about the miracle, how it works, where it is going.

That is to know the mind of God.

Sunday Snippet, Two Old Poems by Bill Chance

As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death.

—-George Bernard Shaw

Display at main Half-Price Books, Dallas, Texas

Fingertips

Why is it
that I can never remember to file
the goldenrod
copy to the archive folder
and send the yellow
to accounting?

My fingertips
have an aversion
to Manila
folder thin cardboard,
little tabs,
alphabetical order.

There was a time
when I looked forwards to phone calls
something good exciting and sexy
usually
now it’s only someone wanting something
plain and difficult.

I feel the beesting
at my belt
the rattling shock of the
vibrating pager, interrupting lunch
or thought, or peace, even when
I’m not wearing it.

Piles of paper, drawers of folders
carefully ordered, fall inward, collapsing,
smothering, horrible weight.
Chaos, where is your freedom?
feeling, surprise,
standing naked in the rain.


I see the mind of the 5-year-old as a volcano with two vents: destructiveness and creativeness.

—-Sylvia Ashton-Warner

Lee on the monkey bars.
Lee at the playground

Energy

Kidsquest Playground

What energy source drives
them? Spinning tops
arms and legs akimbo,
rushing up down and around.
bark chips, pea gravel, stained wood

High pitched cries
the wet smell of recent rain
orange-topped billow iron-headed
clouds flee lightning-cored to the east and north.

Climbing ropes and old tires
wooden construction – simple pine
becomes what fairy castle,
little brothers
what fearsome enemy
to flee and chase, caught
and escape again.

Areas of damp sand
paper cup molds
careful tunnels
volcano hills
populated by plastic soldiers and Lilliputian dreams
shaped by tiny Giant Hands.

Slides straight
and slides twisting
swings and chains
pumping pumping jumping
moment of childhood weightlessness
come down to earth
too soon.

Parents in shorts
with that bent over head stare
watch down at toddlers grubbing
on the ground
making sure the stuff stays
out ‘o their mouth.

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,
Keep your eyes closed! Three Mississippi, Four Mississippi,
Five, Six, Seven,
EightNineTen,
Ready or Not! Here I Come!

Dad! Can you spin me?
In that spin around thing?

Time to put up my pen and get to work.

Sunday Snippet, Flash, Burning Fuse by Bill Chance

“and everything burned in blue, everything a star”

― Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni, Cole and Blackburn, Dallas, Texas

Burning Fuse

Life is a spark – a flame traveling along a long fuse. The spark can’t see very far ahead. Until right before the very end it doesn’t have any idea of how much fuse is in front of it – only how long is the trail of ashes left behind.

The process of life is burning the hopes and dreams of the future – burning a raw fuse and leaving behind the ashes of memories. Hopes and dreams converted into memories. A one-way process… inevitable. This is the tragedy of the world. How much would we give if we could do the opposite? Convert memories into hopes and dreams. It’s impossible.

And what happens at the end? The fuse doesn’t know. Only that the spark will go out.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Three Punches Left by Bill Chance

Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.

—- Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail

The Henge through a bus window.

Three Punches Left

Craig was working late, as he always did. His eyes were tired, achy and blurry from staring at the piles of reports he had to double-check, then type into an endless series of punch cards. The tan cardboard slowly filling long steel boxes to be sent down to the ravenous mainframe three stories down. It was dark outside and he was so worn out he was making more mistakes than correct entries. The bus wouldn’t run too much longer so he shut it all down to take the elevator down the giant steel and glass tower to catch his bus home.

As boring and tough as it was, he was grateful for his job. With gas up to a dollar thirty, the economy had collapsed across the country. Back in Kansas, he had a promotion at work, bought a new car, bought a new house, and had a new girlfriend. Then everything tanked and the company folded, He lost his job, his girlfriend left, and all he had left was debt.

The only places where you could find a job in 1981 were the big Texas cities – fueled by the flood of petrodollars. So he went to all his friends and was able to borrow twenty five dollars for gas and set out south down I35 to look for a job.

But it worked out, he found this job and a crumbling studio apartment on the Belmont Bus line which ran downtown. He had not been able to afford the payments on his car and as soon as they found him it was repossessed.

Craig stood in the darkness looking down the street at the line of buses moving along, stopping every block, getting the last of the worker drones out of the giant buildings. There it was, the Belmont Bus, route #1 – can’t miss it, on its way.

He had a sudden moment of panic – did he have any punches left on his transit card? He bought a card worth sixteen rides – he knew his wallet and pockets were otherwise empty. Sweating, he pulled out the card and breathed a deep sigh when he saw three punches left.

He looked up and saw the open door of the bus looming in front of him. He stepped on and gave the card to the driver for a punch. Then he settled in an empty seat and half dozed off, waiting for the hour-long ride home. A deep pothole lurched Craig awake and he looked out the window to gauge how long it would be until his stop. He had ridden the bus home enough to know the route by heart.

He bolted in his seat when he realized that nothing looked familiar. The area was really sketchy, with groups of young men gathered under the streetlights at every corner. They stared at the bus with faces of violent hate, and Craig was afraid they were looking at him.

When he looked up from his card and boarded the bus, it had been the wrong one. This bus must have passed the Belmont #1 and pulled up to him first.

What neighborhood was he in? What direction was he going? He knew his bus route but not the rest of the city. He walked up to the driver. At least he had two punches left on his card. He could catch a bus back downtown, then another home.

“Uhh, I think I’m on the wrong bus,” he said. “I need to get off and catch a bus the other way, back downtown.”

“Sorry, sir,” the driver replied. “This is the last route of the night. Ain’t nothin’ ‘till five in the morning.”

The next block looked deserted so he got off the bus. He stood there wondering what to do.

There was nothing except to start walking. He could go back along the bus route, follow the signs and stops to downtown, then walk along the Belmont route to get to his apartment. It might be twelve… fifteen miles – he might not make it home until dawn…. If he survived the walk and the night.

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” Craig said and started to put one foot in front of the other.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, The Last Banana by Bill Chance

“We’re so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody’s going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven’t learned how to care for one another. We’re gonna save the fuckin’ planet? . . . And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin’ great. It’s been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn’t goin’ anywhere, folks. We are! We’re goin’ away. Pack your shit, we’re goin’ away. And we won’t leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we’ll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake.”

― George Carlin

The Last Banana

Brenda Sullivan was a beauty queen… or had been a beauty queen once… or an ex-beauty queen. She was crowned Miss Universe. There were representatives from the Moon Colony, Space Station Alpha, and the hollowed-out L2 Lagrange Asteroid. Brenda thought she could really truly claim the title of the most beautiful woman in the universe.

But she didn’t come from offworld – she represented Arkansas. Growing up on the poor side of Little Rock, she never thought she’d be able to leave the planet. But when she married Raef Sullivan they went to the L2 Lagrange Asteroid for their honeymoon.

Raef had made his fortune founding a long series of flashy companies that were very successful in being successful, even if they never seemed to make money… or much of anything else. He knew when to sell his share and to move on and his investors seemed more interested in being involved with a Raef Sullivan enterprise than in actually making any money.

At here wedding Brenda wondered what is was going to be like to be rich beyond imagination and she was happy to find out. She learned from Raef that even if you don’t have to worry about money you still can think about it. Think about it a lot.

One day, Raef called Brenda into his library, “Come look at this!”

An elaborate wooden case sat on the table in the middle of the room. Gold lettering across the lid spelled out the word, “CAVENDISH.”

“What’s in the box?” Brenda asked.

“It’s the last banana.”

“Banana? I thought the fungus destroyed all of them. I haven’t seen a banana in years.”

“I know, that why this is the last one.”

“The last?”

“Yeah, the fungus wiped out almost all of them. For a few years, there were some uninfected farms on isolated island here and there. You could buy them at obscene high prices. But the International Fairness Board ruled that wasn’t fair – and the UN bombed the remaining farms with infected soil. A month ago a single plant was found in an isolated valley on Borneo.”

“One plant?”

“Yeah, and it, of course was destroyed. But someone smuggled out a single fruit.”

“This one?”

“Of course. It’s the last banana.”

“How did you get it?”

The only reply that Raef made was rubbing his thumb and forefinger together.

“How much?”

“More than you can imagine.”

“I don’t know… I can imagine a lot.”

Raef walked over and opened the case. There, in the center, nestled in a little hollow carved out in the shape of a banana and cushioned in red velvet was… a banana. A perfectly ordinary, slightly bruised, curved yellow Cavendish banana.

“Look at it,” said Raef.

“Stare at the last banana long enough and the last banana will stare back at you,” replied Brenda. “Are you going to eat it?” she asked.

“We are going to eat it.”

“Eat the last banana and it will eat you,” Brenda replied. “When?”

“Now.”

“Time flies like an arrow… but fruit flies like a banana,” Brenda said.

“Should we slice it, or eat it as is… take turns?” Raef asked.

“Didn’t Freud say that sometimes a banana is just a banana?”

They lifted the banana out of the case and started to peel it from one end. They passed it back and forth, each taking a bite, taking turns, until the banana was gone.

“How was it?” asked Raef.

“Not bad. Not the best banana I’ve ever had,” said Brenda.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have eaten it. Maybe was should have grown a banana tree,” said Brenda.

“It doesn’t work that way. Bananas are… were all clones. They are not seeds. They are not fertile. That’s why they are extinct. Now they are extinct.”

Brenda looked at the peel on the table. “The last banana peel. The world will be safer now. Not so many slips.”

“Probably not. I’m sure there are ancient things in museums made from banana peels. Native headdresses and such.”

“So this one?”

“Drop it in the trash.”

And Brenda dropped it in the trash.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, Bad Fruit Cup by Bill Chance

“The absence of the will to live is, alas, not sufficient to make one want to die.”

― Michel Houellebecq

Bois D’Arc (Osage Orange) fruit

Bad Fruit Cup

Craig was going to eat fruit for lunch today. He bought it last night, midnight, on a milk run to the grocery store. They needed milk for breakfast for the kids (they get pissed off if there is no milk) and he realized they were out when he was ready for bed. Therefore, midnight milk run, not an unusual thing. Big city equals 24hr grocery stores.

Today, though, the fruit was bad. Craig opened the plastic tub up at his desk and was met with a nasty slimy smell.

He was hungry, so despite good intentions, it was going to be fast food. There was a long line, a lot of high school kids on their lunch hour already in the seats. One was goofing off so much he fell out of his chair, ice drink flew all over.

He tried to watch people sitting at the other tables. Two women nearby. One entire corner of their table was taken up by a pile of black electronic devices. Pagers, Cell Phones. While they ate they were hooked in, wired up.

Two suited and tied middle aged middle manager types were next to them. One faced Craig and he could understand the manager when he spoke. His partner’s voice was an unintelligible mumble.

“The forklifts, we’re selling ’em faster than we get them in.”
“mumble mumble mumble”
“First things first, we should fix the spare IBM.”
“mumble mumble mumble”
“But they didn’t have a backlog”
“mumble mumble mumble”

On around, the next table, a cute woman sat, her lunch eaten, reading a paperback. He stared at her as long as he though was appropriate and nobody noticed.

And that’s about it. He ate, and left, to drive across the street to a bookstore. His son had been checking these books out from the School Library; How to Draw 50 Famous Cartoon Characters, How to Draw 50 Dinosaurs, How to Draw 50 Animals . He sits for hours, typing paper spread across the coffee table in the living room, drawing. Sometimes he cheats and traces.

Craig wanted to buy him one of these books today, maybe buy one every week or so, that way he will have some that he doesn’t have to return, that he won’t worry about tearing or getting some crayon in.

And that’s about it. That’s his time off for the day.