Can Never Be Undreamed

“That which is dreamed can never be lost, can never be undreamed.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Wake

Buddhist Center of Dallas

Today, after a lot of hard work doing nothing at all useful, I felt the need for a nap.

I dreamed of a house, one that is very familiar to me. It is a classic old wooden Victorian – getting long in the tooth. Like thousands and thousands throughout the center of the continent, the place I am so familiar.

It is larger than most, four stories including a dormered top floor with ceiling slanted to match the steep snow-shedding roof. There is an apartment addition over the double garage, reachable from the second floor. The main floor is completely encircled by a porch, with an old metal glider facing the road. There is an old-fashioned sleeping porch extending off the back portion of the second floor – a refuge from the hot summers, a peaceful relic from before air conditioning.

Walking the halls, I realized that I knew every square inch of this large-rambling house and remember all the repairs and improvements done over the decades. I even remembered how it used to be – I remember standing over an opening that led down to the floor furnace, the crisp white winter smell, the warm air convectioning up, the blue gas flame hissing away far below, how my feet felt on the hot metal grating.

Of course, once I ended my nap, stood up and entered the wasted day fully I realized that the house that I knew in such detail and remembered for so long does not exist. Has never existed. Could not even possibly exist.

Yet it feels more real than my actual home – or any dwelling I have lived in before.

The Ornament of a House

“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Oblique Strategy: Listen to the quiet voice

For over a decade we did nothing to our house – no improvements, no work. With two boys and their friends at home or at school and spending summers at home – there was no use. Everything was going to be destroyed, no matter how hard we tried. Our house became frighteningly outdated and worn out.

Now that both sons are more-or-less gone, we have slowly tried to fix, repair, and update our house. We have no excess money, little time, and less energy, but we do what we can.

Our master bath was outmoded, dysfunctional, and bilious. I decided that was one room that I could update on my own (more or less). I started over the last holiday break, thinking I had time off work. But I caught a nasty flu that took a long time to get over, and that set me behind. It took a terrible amount of time to finish – an embarrassing amount of time.

The counter with two embedded (seashell shaped) sinks was especially awful. It was a huge hunk of some sort of cultured stone – yellow with dark streaks and bits of shiny gold flakes embedded in it. I suppose this was in style at one time, but I am not aware of any time that it could have been. It was incredibly heavy – it took four of my son’s largest friends to haul it out.

Everyone says that the only thing to use is marble, but the counter was ninety inches long – a hunk of marble that size would cost six thousand dollars. So I decided to go with tile, always an economical choice, and with a pair of vessel sinks. We were happy with how all that turned out. We struggled with colors, trying some various schemes out and painting over them. We ended up with grays and whites – not a lot of interest. We thought we could add color with accessories.

I had the idea of printing out some of the photographs I have taken and hanging them on the walls. So I started looking through my catalog. Even though I am trying to put more live subjects into my shots, I didn’t want any people in the photos. Nobody wants anybody watching them from the walls of their bathroom.

After some thought, I remembered a series of photographs I took at sunset at the Galatyn Park Fountain here in Richardson. They were abstract and somewhat colorful and the water theme seemed to fit with a bathroom. I decided on two larger photos, 16 x 20 and one smaller one, 8 x 10.

The two larger:

Galatyn Park Fountain, Richardson, Texas


From Walking on Water

Fountain at Galatyn Park, Richardson, Texas


From A Drop

And the smaller:

Galatyn Park Fountain, Richardson, Texas


From Something I’d Never Tasted Before

I sent the files off to Posterjack for the printing, and was very happy with their work. Then I bought poster clip glass from Michaels – a lot cheaper than matting and framing, and fine for the bathroom.

While I was waiting in line at the checkout at Michaels I noticed along with some folks behind me that they had a book on display – on that rack full of impulse purchases for the people in line. It was “Fun With Fidget Spinners: 50 Super Cool Tricks & Activities .” That is an actual book. A book of things that you could do with a fidget spinner…. other than spin it. We couldn’t imagine what could be in the book. Maybe I should have bought it.

I have to do a little more work trimming and fitting the posters (they are not exactly 16 x 20), but overall, I’m happy on how it all came out.

It’s only a bathroom, and it’s our bathroom, but there is a bit of a tiny thrill to see my photographs printed out large and mounted on the wall.

The smaller photo on the wall at the end of the sinks.

The two larger posters on the large blank wall facing the sinks.

Fear the Futuro

“When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Oblique Strategy: What are the sections sections of? Imagine a caterpillar moving

The Futuro House

Futuro House, Royse City, Texas

How the Futuro House came to Royse City

Futuro House, Royse City, Texas

There is so much out there, great and small – along the highways or off small country roads, or along rugged trails. What must be in the unreachable, unvisited, unexplored tracts?

It really doesn’t matter because so few people stop, anyway.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 26 – At Lorn Hall by Ramsey Campbell

Here’s a closeup of the sculpture on the clock on the carriage house.

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 26 – At Lorn Hall by Ramsey Campbell
Read it online here:

At Lorn Hall by Ramsey Campbell

To its left, where he might have looked for a doorbell, a tarnished blotchy plaque said LORN HALL. The door displayed no bell or knocker, just a greenish plaque that bore the legend RESIDENCE OF CROWCROSS. “Lord Crowcross,” Randolph murmured as though it might gain some significance for him if not summon its owner to the door. As he tried to recall ever having previously heard the name he felt a chill touch as thin as a fingernail on the back of his neck. It was a raindrop, which sent him to push the heavy door wide.

—-Ramsey Campbell, At Lorn Hall

Ramsey Campbell is considered one of the masters of modern horror – and from what I’ve read, I’d have to agree. I particularly impressed by the evolution and breadth of his talent… from Lovecraftian tales, to jewels of erotic horror, to his increasingly complex novels.

Today’s story is a straightforward gothic frightfest… a haunted house full of ancient furniture, barely functioning lighting, and foreboding paintings of the master, Lord Crowcross looking down on every scene. There are these odd headphones that narrate the tours… and maybe more. There are even spiders that add their webbing to the lace patterns of doilies on the furniture.

Scary stuff. Game over.

Interview with Ramsey Campbell:

Starburst: What are your thoughts on horror fiction? Do you think one must experience horror in order to write it?

Ramsey Campbell: I think you have to experience horror in the imagination. That’s what you dream up onto the page. On a personal level, my childhood is a case of nightmares. Someone once said I was born to write horror; I’m not too sure about that. A fair number of horror writers have a strange background. It’s not specific to the field, and I’m not certain if it’s even special to it. That said, I grew up reading adult horror. It was a very small step from reading George MacDonald to fairy tales. Victorian fairy tales were a complete nightmare that have been cut out of the later versions. They use the same kind of suggestions. What is left out is then up to my imagination, for me, that’s how much of the best horror fiction works, even today.

Thoughts on your childhood?

I had a very strange childhood. I lived in a small house with my parents. They became estranged very shortly after I was born, and I didn’t know my father at all for about twenty years, even though he was in the same house. I never saw him, and he became this kind of monstrous figure. My mother suffered from schizophrenia, and at a very early age I had to figure out the difference between what she saw and reality. I had to work that out when I was three years old, you know. A useful perception, obviously. That’s defined a lot of what I write, this difference between what is perceived and what is real. That was a long answer. (laughs)

What type of influence did H.P. Lovecraft have on you, in particular your early work?

Oh huge. Huge! I read a number of anthologies from the library when I was young and teenage. You couldn’t get a book on Lovecraft, and it wasn’t until 1960, I believe, that the first ever paperback collection of Lovecraft stories came out called, Cry Horror. They contained Call of Cthulhu and Rats in the Wall. Some of his masterpieces. Also some of his lesser stuff like Moon Bog. But I read that through in a single day, and I was completely steeped in it. I knew that was what I wanted to write, basically. But I didn’t write short stories or a novel for at least three years. At eleven I completed a terrible work called, Ghostly Terrors, which was everything I read just stuffed together, but it gave me focus. I knew this was the kind of thing I wanted to do, and I wanted to imitate. But I hadn’t travelled, never gone further than Southport, and Lovecraft’s work was set in Massachusetts. I wrote five stories very much imitating Lovecraft. Lovecraft didn’t use dialogue, so nor did I. I unlearned a lot of stuff. I sent the works originally to Arkham House to see if they were any good. They wrote back two pages describing what was wrong with the pieces. Not the least of which, of course, was the lack of dialogue. It’s interesting how many writers start off imitating other writers.

—-From Starburst Magazine

(click to enlarge)
Magnolia Building
Dallas, Texas

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 18 – Feral by Christopher Moyer

Patricia Johanson, Sagitaria Platyphylla (Delta Duckpotato), Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 18 – Feral by Christopher Moyer

Read it online here:
Feral by Christopher Moyer

Our grandmother watches us some of the time. The rest of the time, we do what we want. At school, the adults asked a lot of questions about that, so we stopped going. We haven’t gone down to the school in weeks or maybe months, I don’t know—our watches stopped a long time ago, too, and after that we threw them in the creek down by the park just to watch them splash.

—-Christopher Moyer, Feral

I had always wanted to own a home on a creek lot. Our house technically is, though it is more of a ditch than a creek. At any rate, there is quite a cavalcade of critters parading by, other than the joggers and dog-walkers. If you sit in my back yard at dawn and sip a cup of coffee you will see the coyotes trotting back to their dens – I assume hidden in the clumps of trees along the fairways of the golf course. A family of beavers live under the road and sometimes can be seen on the jogging trail bridges at night. Rabbits, ducks, and possums are common, sometimes a fox will show up. There is a bobcat terrorizing the neighborhood – not much can be done.

Nature is never as far away as we think it is.

Today’s bit of flash fiction by Christopher Moyer reminds us, not only of the wild presence, but how easy it is to slip back… to lose our humanity… to become feral. Easy, and maybe not so bad.

Christopher Moyer:

The first time I bid on a freelance job to ghostwrite a doomsday survival guide, I was only asked one question: Did I have experience writing for middle-aged Republican men? I told the client that I had experience writing for a wide variety of ages and political affiliations, which was noncommittal enough to be true.

The client said, “Sounds good, bro.”

We were off to the races.
—From Confessions of a Former Apocalypse Survival Guide Writer, at Vice Motherboard

They don’t call it Duck Creek for nothing.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 17 – The Mice by Lydia Davis


 

Over several years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month…. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year – In September this time… because it is September.

Today’s story, for day 17 – The Mice by Lydia Davis

Read it online here:

The Mice by Lydia Davis

Although we are pleased, we are also upset, because the mice behave as though there were something wrong with our kitchen. What makes this even more puzzling is that our house is much less tidy than the houses of our neighbors. There is more food lying about in our kitchen, more crumbs on the counters and filthy scraps of onion kicked against the base of the cabinets. In fact, there is so much loose food in the kitchen I can only think the mice themselves are defeated by it.

—-Lydia Davis, The Mice

Lydia Davis is a writer known for ultra-short works of flash fiction. I haven’t read very much of what she has written – though I think I’ll pick up a book of her stories now.

There is something about flash fiction that is appropriate for the way we live our lives today. Who has time for a giant novel anyway? Bits and little tales you can fit in before meetings, while waiting for something, or riding the train. That is all the freedom we have anymore – those tiny slivers of time when the world forgets about you for a moment.

Sure, it’s tough for a deep connection or for strong emotion to take hold in such little slivers of seconds. But that is what we are left with.

Interview with Lydia Davis:

in those days (fall of 1973, age 26, living in the country in France), I would force myself to stay at the desk for a certain number of hours, giving myself admonitions (written in my notebook) like “Alright, let’s establish one firm rule: from when I get up—at 7 or 7:30—until, say, 12:30 … allowing one break for a modest, circumscribed, abrupt meal of porridge or eggs at about 10:30, nothing else will be allowable—no cooking, no cleaning, no walking, no talking or playing, etc.”

At the desk, I would write and write, in my notebook, whatever came to mind, as a way of working up to the point of writing something like a story. This would not be free-association writing—I never did that—but thoughts, descriptions of what was around me, always written carefully, revised. I might write something incomplete, possibly the beginning of a story, but possibly just a fragment:

Although the house seemed very bright, clean, and elegant, one could tell by the number of flies that swarmed in it, landed on the furniture, and crept up and down the windowpanes, that something about the house was rotten.