Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Intersection, Transit and Rose by Gail Anderson

Obscurity or fame. Everyone here craved one or the other.

—-Gail Anderson – Intersection, Transit and Rose

Decaying wall, Ladonia, Texas

I had plans for today. It’s the last nice day before a cold front barrels through. So I mapped out a long bike ride into a part of town I rarely ride now – but remember well from decades ago. Also, I have some ideas and itch to write some fiction so I was going to re-start my old “Sunday Snippets” – and squeeze out something new, original, and crappy.

But getting out of the shower and going to put my cycling clothes on I stepped with wet feet on the cheap imitation wood flooring, which is like snot on ice when damp, and went down in a naked heap. I did save the coffee cup I (for some unknown reason) had in my hand – throwing it into the hamper while I spun to the floor. A clumsy lifetime has taught me how to fall. I’m okay but this getting old shit is not for the faint of heart. My knee is twitchy and my hip is sore and I don’t think I should go very far in this state. The sheet of pain (again, I’m fine but it really hurt for a while) wiped my mind and now I can’t really come up with the lies I need for fiction right now – maybe next week. I’m essential, so it’s another week of work starting tomorrow, too.

So, at any rate, here’s a tasty piece of flash fiction (literally flash fiction) that won the Best of Winter 2019 award from Reflex Fiction. Mystery of its own and action inspired by Hitchcock – what else can you want?

Read it here:

Intersection, Transit and Rose by Gail Anderson

from Reflex Fiction

Gail Anderson Twitter

I’ve always loved the electric hum/whine/screech a Sunpak flash makes while it recharges.

Go At It At Full Speed

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”
― Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald

Mural on construction fence, Farmer’s Market, Dallas, Texas

Yesterday, when I was looking at the stream of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents vintage television show – I noticed that one of the episodes that stretched across the top of the screen was “The Man From The South.”

That episode is taken from a Roald Dahl short story. I’ve written about it before – it’s one of my favorite things – both the original story and the television episodes made about it. It is a prime lesson in how to build tension… nothing is better.

It’s been done several times – but this one features two legendary actors, Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre – both at the top of their game.

You can watch it (and believe me, you will want to) here.

The Anticipation of It

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
― Alfred Hitchcock

Mural on Construction Fence
Farmer’s Market
Dallas, Texas
Chris Hoover

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I turned on the television. Tuning around I came across the start of an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It caught my eye because it featured a very young Burt Reynolds. It also had Harry Dean Stanton (- who looked like he always looks) and Murray Hamilton (don’t worry, you don’t remember the name but you’ve seen him). The show was from 1960, season 5, episode 37 – “Escape to Sonoita.”

The thing wasn’t perfect, but the story was crackerjack with a nice twist ending. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and the woman in distress was beautiful. What more can you ask for?

If you have a few minutes to spare, you can watch it here.


They come like apocalypse, like all ten plagues rolled in one, beating across the sky with an insidious drone, their voices harsh and metallic, cursing the land. Ten million strong, a flock that blots out the huge pale sinking sun, they descend into the trees with a protracted explosion of wings, black underfeathers swirling down like a corrupt snow.

—-A Bird in Hand, T.C. Boyle


I ride my bicycle through the morning cold, along the trail, on my way to work. The concrete is suddenly sullied, covered in a crumpled layer of bird shit. The dank ammoniacal stench pierces the chill still air and my snot stoppered nose. Overhead the black mass screeches, ignoring the brakes in the road and the bike below. I wait for a green light and watch the thick clusters of foul fowl – some finally flee, caterwauling about, off for the day.

The patch of busy road has a Wendy’s and a McDonald’s flanking a deserted grocery store. There are a few patches of green grass and some lonely copses of trees. Plus a great parallel picket of equidistant wires high in the sky – carrying who know what in its copper cores – but working fine as a gargantuan perch for a hundred thousand starlings every night.

I have no idea what attracts the birds to this spot, but it surely must not make the owners of the restaurants very happy. Not too many customers enjoy the pelting of guano they get walking from their cars, or the Hitchcockian fright the geometric arrangement of squawking birds stirs in the soul.

The light turns green and I ride on.

The Birds, Hitchcock

The Birds, Hitchcock

After work I fight the urge to fall asleep and surf the web for a second. Today’s viral video is one that a couple of women shot from their canoe. It is a murmuration of starlings.

The comments are all about the amazing sight and the wonderful bounty of nature… but I can’t help but thing of the filthy mass of starlings that I have to deal with on my bike ride.

I settle down to finish a book I’ve been working through for a while. It’s a collection of Short Stories by T.C. Boyle, Greasy Lake and Other Stories. A few weeks back, I read about half of them (very good BTW) and went off for some other fare and am now returning to finish the text off.

I come across an interesting two part story, A Bird in Hand.

The first section, subtitled 1980, concerns a farmer trying to get a murmuration of starlings to leave a stand of trees on his property, the only bit of woods that he has. He tries to scare them, to poison them, to hunt them down, but they are too stubborn. It ends with his defeat, with the sound of his chain saw.

The second part of the story is set a hundred years earlier. It is the true story of the American Acclimatization Society – a group from New York City that was dedicated to introducing every bird species mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings to the New World.

In Henry IV, Part 1, Hotspur says, “I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but “Mortimer,” and give it him, to keep his anger still in motion.”

That single mention of “starling” by the bard inspired Eugene Schieffelin of the American Acclimatization Society to free a few hundred European Starlings in Central Park.

They now have become one of the most hated and damaging invasive species, causing the collapse of native bird populations, untold crop damage, and even the disruption of air traffic.

It did make for a good story, though.

Short Story Day Eighteen – The Landlady

18. The Landlady
Roald Dahl

This is day Eighteen of my Month of Short Stories – a story a day for June.

Everybody is familiar with Roald Dahl‘s children’s books and the movies made from them: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Willy Wonka), James and the Giant Peach, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. What makes his children’s books so good, other than the crackerjack storytelling, is the element of subversive evil that lurks, sometimes just beneath the surface… sometimes a bit above. I think all great children’s literature has this dark side to it – at least anything that’s readable by adults.

Not quite as many people nowadays read his short, adult fiction. In these, he takes the evil and runs with it. His stories are the opposite of a lot of the modern fiction (the New Yorker fiction) that you read. The characters are cardboard, there is no character development, no fancy descriptions or clever word-play. It’s all a simple story, short, spare, straightforward right up the the twist reveal ending.

This sort of thing has fallen a bit out of favor today – which is a shame. As much as I like a complex tale of existential angst, complete with extensive interior monologues – there is something to be said for a quick simple plot. It’s satisfying if done well – it’s hard to do well, and Roald Dahl is the best.

Of course, the other thing is that this sort of work is very well adapted for television, especially the anthology series that were so popular during my childhood (and now can be found all over the internet). Dahl’s stories were the core of the various famous Hitchcock anthology shows, the underrated Tales of the Unexpected, or the forgotten Way Out.

Today, we have The Landlady. It’s a horror story, though you don’t know that until you get to the end. I like stuff like this and would love to be able to write it. It was first published in the New Yorker in 1959… where it would never get a second look today.

One word to the wise: as a chemist I can tell you… if you are drinking tea with a stranger and the beverage smells of bitter almonds, it’s time to leave. If you’ve had as much as a sip – time to call 911.

Billy was seventeen years old. He was wearing a new navy-blue overcoat, a new brown trilby hat, and a new brown suit, and he was feeling fine. He walked briskly down the street. He was trying to do everything briskly these days. Briskness, he had decided, was the one common characteristic of all successful businessmen. The big shots up at the head office were absolutely fantastically brisk all the time. They were amazing.

There were no shops on this wide street that he was walking along, only a line of tall houses on each side, all of them identical. They had porches and pillars and four or five steps going up to their front doors, and it was obvious that once upon a time they had been very swanky residences. But now, even in the darkness, he could see that the paint was peeling from the woodwork on their doors and windows and that the handsome white facades were cracked and blotchy from neglect.
—- The Landlady, Roald Dahl


Man From the South

If I’m going to put something up by Roald Dahl, I have to link to his story, Man from the South, in case you have never seen it before. I read it years and years ago, and always refer to it as an example of how to control rising tension – building until it becomes almost unbearable. This is true both of the written story and the television versions.

There are three versions on Youtube – one, the classic from Alfred Hitchcock, with Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre. It was also done in 1979 and 1985 – those versions are very good too.

I think I might like the Jose Ferrer version the best (I think it has the best crazy woman).

If you are as big a fan of Man from the South as I am – then you should check out the last segment of an otherwise terrible movie called Four Rooms. It’s a short riff by Quentin Tarantino on the whole deal – with a completely different, very Tarantino ending.

Here’s a clip (complete with money shot):

What I learned this week,June 8, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 Is Still Misinterpreted. We, Not Government, Are Enslaving Ourselves

Ray Bradbury’s Power of Memory

Recommended reading from Ray Bradbury

Perhaps this is how he’d like to be remembered – F*ck Me Ray Bradbury (NSFW)

The Jar (part 1)

The Jar (part 2)

The Jar (part 3)

The Jar (part 4)

Contemporary Authors We Think We’ll Still Be Reading in 100 Years

A set of Flickr images use the Geotagging Database to show the locations of photographs in major cities… separated by locals vrs. tourists. Make sure you aren’t missing out.

Locals and Tourists… where people in Dallas are taking pictures.

The same thing… for a bunch of other cities. – with city names – Detail

The 100 best movie posters of the last 100 years.

The Best Pizza in the World