Short Story of the day, A Tobacco Plant by Punch Magazine, November 11,1914

“After some time he felt for his pipe. It was not broken, and that was something. Then he felt for his pouch, and there was some tobacco in it, and that was something more. Then he felt for matches and he could not find any at all, and that shattered his hopes completely.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again

Wasps at the Trinity River Audubon Center

I worked at work and then worked at home and didn’t finish until eleven o’clock. Only time for a quick read of classic flash fiction. Luckily it, although well over a hundred years old, is a good one.

A Tobacco Plant by Punch Magazine, November 11, 1914

 

Short Story (flash fiction) of the day, Where Are You? by Joyce Carol Oates

“You people who have survived childhood don’t remember any longer what it was like. You think children are whole, uncomplicated creatures, and if you split them in two with a handy axe there would be all one substance inside, hard candy. But it isn’t hard candy so much as a hopeless seething lava of all kinds of things, a turmoil, a mess. And once the child starts thinking about this mess he begins to disintegrate as a child and turns into something else–an adult, an animal.”
― Joyce Carol Oates

Downtown Waxahatchie, Texas

Joyce Carol Oates is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read a lot of what she’s written and understand most of it.

Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?

Life After High School

Heat

What I like the best about her is that she is not afraid to go for the jugular. I have a need to explore the thin membrane – the border –  between what we all consider our day-to-day lives and the world of evil chaos that is right there on the other side. She understands that and will cross that membrane and will bring you along with her.

In today’s bit if flash fiction she does that, in only 500 words.

Where Are You?, by Joyce Carol Oates

 

Short Story Of the Day – Chrysalis (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going. Not consciously, of course—for consciously he is engaged in bewailing and cursing a faithless world that recedes further and further into the distance. Rather, it is an unconscious factor which spins the illusions that veil his world. And what is being spun is a cocoon, which in the end will completely envelop him.”
― C.G. Jung, Aion

Parking Day
Main Street
Dallas, Texas


I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#59) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


Chrysalis

Amy McKay’s husband, Barney, always claimed that he had been abducted by aliens. Multiple times.

On their first date, for Pizza and Beer at Bennie’s restaurant, he had said, “I think they keep coming back to me because they are studying me over the course of my life.”

“All your life?”

“Yeah the first time, I was just a little kid, walking around in the park. My parents said it wasn’t safe. They were right, but for the wrong reason.”

“You were abducted?”

“Yeah. I don’t remember much… buzzing, flashing lights, a funny smell. It’s been different every time since, but always the same smell. I think it must be what they smell like.”

Amy decided that that was going to be her last date with Barney. She did not want to deal with a nutcase like that.

She was wrong. He was so nice and her choices so limited… and he didn’t talk about the aliens very often, so she stuck with him.

She learned the places he claimed to have been abducted from and steered him away when others were with them. It was embarrassing, for example, to be in the backseat of a car with another couple and to have Barney say, in a very matter-of-fact voice as they drove past a copse of trees, “Oh, there’s one of the places where I was abducted by aliens. I was taking a pee behind those trees, and a beam came down and grabbed me, lifted me up into the ship. Barely finished in time. Those aliens don’t seem to care much about our daily routines.”

They dated for a year, engaged for another, and were married. Amy came to view his stories of alien abduction as an odd quirk, like a funny laugh, or a strange birthmark. It helped that there didn’t seem to be any new abductions. Barney actually seemed to be a little disappointed, like something fun had gone out of his life.

“Maybe they aren’t interested in married humans – only single ones,” he would say, with a wistful sigh, like an old man pining for his untamed youth. Amy and Barney began to talk about having children.

And then Barney disappeared. Her friends assumed he had developed cold feet and run off.

“You are better off without him.”

“Men nowadays are nothing more than children, they are afraid of commitment.”

“You have more options now than ever before.”

Amy would nod her head in agreement. Once they started talking about children Barney had bailed on her. Still, it was odd that there was no trace of him at all. Panicky husbands don’t disappear completely. Amy talked to the police, and they were sympathetic, but she had the feeling that their investigation was half-hearted. She knew they, like everyone else, assumed he simply left her and skipped town.

As the days dragged on, Amy began to think about his stories of alien abduction. Maybe there was something after all.

Finally, she gave in and admitted to herself that he was really gone, gone for good. She decided to clean out his stuff from the house, and then move on.

He had spent a lot of time in his basement workshop – a small room with rock walls and heavy wooden workbenches that always smelled damp and moldy. It was too claustrophobic for Amy and she rarely descended the steep staircase. She had not been down there in over a year. But she knew that as long as his tools and scraps of metal and wood were down there she would always be reminded of Barney. It all had to go. She gathered a shovel, a broom, and a case of heavy trash bags and lugged it all down the stairs.

Right away she tripped over something on the narrow floor. Reaching down into the cramped space around her feet she picked up a dusty set of clothes. It was Barney’s denim overalls, and the lumberjack shirt he always wore under them. There was his old stained and tattered underwear and his socks worn with holes. She fumbled around his workboots, slathered with dried mud, to find his wallet still stuffed with two hundred dollars. She felt something heavy and jingling and discovered it was his leather tool belt, with his favorite implements still attached.

But where was Barney? Amy began to panic – there is no way he would leave without these prized possessions. Maybe the aliens had grabbed him after all – swooped him up and spirited away, leaving his clothes and personal belongings behind.

Then she saw it.

It was about four feet long, maybe two feet across, and a rough oblong shape… the form of a big, thick cigar. It was a light beige, and a little fuzzy, like newly dead moss. The surface looked layered, as if it was made of thick paper, wrapped around itself in random directions – loose in some places, solid in others.

Barney. Amy wasn’t sure how she knew, but it was. The aliens had finally done it – they had transformed him into this… thing. She stared at it and after what seemed to be a long, long, time, she touched it. It seemed to respond to her touch, quivering a little. Instead of being slimy or unpleasant, it felt solid and warm, and not frightening at all.

Amy fetched her biggest, strongest quilt. She brought it down the steep stairs and wrapped the thing in it and then wedged it over to the stairs. It was a lot heavier that it looked – Amy decided that although it was quite a bit smaller than Barney – it weighed about the same thing that he did… or had.

Taking gulps of air, she managed to haul the thing, step by step, protected by the quilt, up the steep stairs into the kitchen. She levered it up onto a chair, then onto the kitchen table and removed the quilt.

The thing seemed to glow in the light and Amy thought it quivered in a happy way, glad to be out of that moldy basement and into the light. She hoped that it was glad for her company too.

As the days went by, Amy became more used to the thing actually being her husband, Barney, and would look forward to talking to it as it sat on the kitchen table. She would go out in the day and save up some story to tell the thing as she sat at home with dinner and a cup of hot chocolate.

“You know, everybody thinks you’re gone now. And I don’t tell them any different,” she would say.

“Jimmy Dresden, the packer at the Piggly Wiggly, was sure making the eyes at me. He kept asking about the dance down at the City Building this weekend but I put him straight right away. ‘You know Jimmy, I already got me a husband.’ ‘But he’s gone some six months now, Amy, don’t you think it’s time you got to steppin’ out a little.’ I told him, ‘It seems like he’s here with me ever’ day.’ And that’s the truth,” Amy said, “You’re here with me ever’ day and we have these nice talks.”

Barney was never one for a lot of words before, so it didn’t seem different now. Instead of a grunt or a bored sigh the thing would quiver and that was good enough.

As the weeks went by the thing began to change. It became smoother, sleeker and darker. It went from the light beige to an uneven honey color. Then on to a dark copper shade and finally to a glossy black.

Amy realized she had seen this before. When she was a little girl, her brother, who was always messing around with bugs and animals and whatnot had put a caterpillar in a jar with some sticks and leaves.

“Come Look!” he had called her. The worm had spun a cocoon and over a period of weeks it had changed in the same way that this thing was. She looked up cocoon in a dictionary and then shouted out, “Chrysalis! That’s what it is!”

“Them aliens have gone and made my Barney into something else.” She stared at the chrysalis for a long time and then shouted at it, “Barney? I wonder what they are going to make you into?”

As the chrysalis became darker and larger and more stretched she began to spend more time staring at it and talking to it. It did look like something inside was growing and was going to start to try and break out.

There was also this smell. An odd odor began wafting around the chrysalis, getting stronger and stronger every day. Amy didn’t think it smelled bad so much as… just different. It smelled alien. She dug an old box fan out of the back closet and set it up to try and get some air on the thing.

“You always said that those aliens, when they abducted you, had a crazy smell ‘bout themselves. I guess this is it,” she said, speaking directly to the chrysalis. It quivered a little.

Amy fell into a comfortable routine with the chrysalis. The only problem was that she couldn’t have anybody, not her sisters, nor her mom, nor her cousins, nor especially Jimmy Dresden from the Piggly Wiggly who had kept up his relentless pursuit, from ever coming over to the house.

She told herself that it was to keep from raising suspicion, but she had even gone to the movies with Jimmy Dresden a couple times and even consented to driving down to the lake late for some cold beers from the cooler Jimmy always kept in the back of his convertible.

Amy was fighting in her mind whether to tell the chrysalis about this while she was driving home one afternoon. She had decided to put it off a little longer and come up with a more innocuous story to help keep the chrysalis entertained.

“Hey, honey, she shouted as she came through the back screen door, “You’ll never guess what happened down in the church parking lot last Sunday after services….”

When she reached the kitchen she dropped her grocery bag on the floor. The chrysalis was gone. In its place was a small loose pile of dark brown thin papery remnants. Amy gasped and then heard someone moving around in the back bedroom.

Before she could find her bearings Barney walked out of the bedroom, right up to her, placed his hands on her shoulder and a bright kiss on her cheek.

“Hey honey, it’s so good to be back.”

Amy stepped back to get a good look. It was Barney all right, but Barney that was a little smoother, a little more solid, maybe even a little younger.

“Is everything OK honey?” he asked. His voice was deeper than she remembered, more melodious. His voice had always grated on her a bit, especially after years of marriage, but this voice was like liquid silk.

“Umm I guess so,” she stammered. “You just caught be by surprise.”

Barney looked different. And he had never smelled like that. He smelled like the chrysalis… that odd smell that had been growing stronger. She decided she didn’t like that, didn’t like it at all.

“Umm, Honey, you haven’t been out of the house in so long. Why don’t you take a quick shower and we can head to town for the evening,” Amy suggested with a hopeful note in her voice.

Barney simply smiled.

“Sure, Amy. That sounds like a great plan. But… there’s something I want to take care of first.”

Barney turned and pushed open the door to the basement.

“Come on down here honey, there’s something I want you to see. Something important.”

Amy felt a gulp in her throat. Even though she didn’t understand how, she knew what was waiting for her. She thought about turning and making a run for it… but Barney looked so happy, so good, so young… it was probably a change for the better.

“Will I be conscious… will I be aware of the time in the chrysalis?”

Barney just smiled.

Amy decided to go. She only hoped she could get used to the smell.

Short Story Of the Day – Pickled Herring Snacks (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“We are decent,” Queenie says suddenly, her lower lip pushing, getting sore now that she remembers her place, a place from which the crowd that runs the A & P must look pretty crummy. Fancy Herring Snacks flashed in her very blue eyes.
—–John Updike, A&P

Photo for Writing Prompt


I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#57) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


This is from a photo writing prompt – see above.

What is on this guy’s mind?

Is he a spy watching his subject?

a detective shadowing a tail?

a hitman waiting on a victim?

Expecting an illicit lover?

These would all be good – but I wanted something a little different – something mundane that I could then kick up a notch. I think he is simply some guy sneaking in a smoke.

 

Pickled Herring Snacks

 

 

The first thing Walter Neff did when he was  down the dark steps along the old stone wall and invisible from the house was to yank the loose rock out. He pulled his cigarettes and matches from the space he had hollowed out behind. He felt for the glass jar he knew was in there too, but left it for now. He pulled his Fedora down over his forehead and lifted the collar of his coat to hold back the wind and spitting drizzle. Only after a quick look around did he allow himself a contented sigh and lit the bright match. He loved watching the flame course around the end of the cigarette, knowing that the first satisfying puff would not be very far behind.

Walter had met his wife, Phyllis, when she had called him to inquire about a life insurance policy on her husband. They had hit it off immediately, and Walter sold her a hefty policy to boot. There was a nasty bit of business, a thorough inquiry, when her husband had died – fallen off the rear observation platform of a train – the insurance paid off on the double indemnity clause because it was an accident – but they were able to ride it out and were married once it all blew over.

But now, Walter was having second thoughts. And thirds. Phyllis turned out o be a real piece of work. And she absolutely forbade him to smoke, which he had enjoyed since he was ten.

Finally, the familiar nicotine-soaked cloud was coursing into his lungs and he relaxed.

The misery that his wife could inflict almost made it not worth the trouble to sneak off for a smoke.

Almost.

The biggest joy in Walter’s life was in manipulating his wife so that he could get to his cigarettes without her knowledge. Tonight was a double pleasure in that he was not only getting a smoke break, but he was escaping one of her dreadful dinner parties.

He had no idea where she met these people, but was shocked at how many criminal low-life useless dolts she could conjure up on short notice. Tonight was especially bad in that he disliked the two couples that came over. Ralph and Harriet Brisbane were repugnant. Not only were Cecil Ramirez and his incumbent stripper girlfriend What’s-Her-Name repulsive – but he was scary. At the last get-together, after a dozen too many cocktails, Cecil Ramirez blubbered out to Walter that he thought Ralph Brisbane was running around with the stripper, Cecil’s stripper, behind his back.

“Ah swear there Walter,” Ramirez said, “If I catch that scumbucket Brisbane even givin’ her a look crossways I’ll pop a cap in his ass so fast it’ll make yure head spin.”

Walter thought about Brisbane’s sports car, the luxurious boat he kept down at the marina, and the antique pewter snuffbox full of cocaine that was always at hand. Walter knew that these were all things no stripper could resist. He had warned Phyllis about the danger in having both couples over for dinner and drinks, but she has simply flashed her bright-eyed look that always meant trouble and told him he was full of shit.

“Don’t be such a scaredy-cat. You don’t ever want me to have any fun,” She said.

He didn’t understand how a fight between dangerous men in your own house could be considered “fun” – but he was going to lose that argument.

So now his cigarette was about halfway done and he took a particularly deep inhalation before reaching back into the secret opening and pulling out a jar of Nathan’s brand of Pickled Herring Snacks. He turned the glass over in his hand and watched the streetlight bounce off the silver fish scales contained within.

Earlier, that afternoon, Phyllis had given him a detailed list of items to pick up at the grocery and on the way back, Walter had stopped at this spot for a smoke, selected the Pickled Herring Snacks from the bag and hidden them in the hole behind the rock.

Tonight, after a couple rounds of cocktails and an increasing level of tension, Phyllis had gone into the kitchen to put together the appetizer tray.

“Walter, you bastard! Get your ass in here!”

The other two men looked on sympathetically, but Walter smiled a little. His plan was working.

“You forgot the jar of Goddammed Nathan’s Picked Herring Snacks.”

“I’m sorry dear; it must have slipped my mind.”

“That’s why I write it down for you. Now get your ass out that door and get me those Herrings! Right now!”

“But dear… our guests?”

“Don’t ‘but dear’ me you worthless pile of sheep shit. You get me what I want and pronto!”

“All right dear.”

And it was all right. Since the jar was hidden only a few steps from the house, he had the free time it would have taken him to walk to the corner market and back. About the time of a leisurely cigarette.

Suddenly, he glanced up. There was a sharp sound out of the darkness in the direction of his house. He climbed a few steps so that he could get a glimpse. There was the glint of broken glass in the front yard and the curtains looked surreal as the cold wind blew them out of the shattered opening, fluttering in the hissing rain.

With the window busted out, he could hear yelling. Two voices, one low and guttural and the other high pitched and desperate. Then a loud, shrill woman’s scream and a series of popping gunshots complete with muzzle flashes reflecting out across his front yard. Then silence.

For a second, Walter had a desire to rush back, run up the stone stairs and across his yard – to see what horror had occurred during Phyllis’s dinner party. But he stood still. There were three, maybe four good puffs left on his cigarette. So he stepped back down, leaned against the stone wall, and looked at the can of Pickled Herring Snacks as he inhaled another deep languid breath of precious smoke.

He slid what remained of his pack back into the hole and replaced the stone that hid the opening.

There would be plenty of time to find out.

 

 

Short Story Of the Day – The Iceberg (flash fiction) by Bill Chance

“The old endless chain of love, tolerance, indifference, aversion and disgust”
― Samuel Beckett

(click to enlarge) “The Icebergs” by Fredrick Church, Dallas Museum of Art

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#54) More than half way there! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


The Iceberg

MODERN AMERICAN ARTS DIGEST —– AUGUST 13, 1996
ELMORE SPENCER – AN ARTIST WATERS HIS ROOTS
———————————————————-

Elmore Spencer has climbed the mountain of the art world. From a child prodigy that startled adults with his sketching skills at the age of six to a celebrated student of the Paris art schools to a meteoric rise to the jet-setting toast of the New York Art Society, Spencer has had it all.

Instrumental in founding the “New Realism” school, he then rejected this return to “Painting that looks like something” and veered off into innovative artistic experiments that challenged the border between art and observer, maintaining his success and popularity through it all.

Now, he struggles with a return to his roots, to maintain the connection with his audience that has been robbed by his decades of success. The conflict of the avant-garde and the traditional, realistic and symbolic, is at the heart of what Spencer is up to.

“It’s been a long road, but I’ve been lucky,” Spencer said in a recent interview, “To others its looks like a climb, a rise, but it’s a spiral, the further I go, the more times I return to the same place.”

His newest work is a sculpture, a pair of lovers – hyper-realistic. They sit on a bench in the darkest corner of a room with a film playing against a screen, they are only visible during a portion of the film, illuminated by a flame on the screen. They are locked in a kiss, an embrace, his hand is slipped inside her shirt, hers rests on his thighs. Most visitors think the couple is real, the museum received dozens of complaints.

Another sculpture is a mechanical museum guard. He stands inside the room. On those days the film is turned off. Infrared proximity sensors pick up any patron that enters the room, the ersatz guard then plays a recording, “I don’t know, they’re supposed to turn this film on.”

Other sculptures are occasionally placed in the room – such as an ersatz murder victim with a knife protruding from his back. These are obviously intended to shock or annoy. On certain days the room is empty, leading to a scene where patrons in the know walk around examining each other, trying to determine what is real and what isn’t.

Spencer often spends the day in his own installation, sitting on a bench with his famous sketchpad, drawing the observers. This has been so successful, he has taken to walking around the museum sketching patrons looking at art.

“As artists we live for the people that look at our work, really. We rarely think about them, or study them, or try to incorporate their lives into the art itself. I want to change that…….”

———————————————————-

“Shelby, Shelby!”

She turned from the painting, a huge panel covering most of the wall, hand painted with extreme skill to look like a blow-up of an article from an art magazine, to see her husband standing there.

“What do you want?”

“It’s time to leave.”

“I’m not finished reading this.”

“What the hell?”

“It’s by Spencer, My Life, it’s called. I haven’t decided what it means yet.” Shelby felt anger welling up in her throat. She’s known Jim, her husband, since they were children and they had argued many times over the years, but nothing like lately. There was a fight coming on, mean and nasty, with no resolution. She could feel the heat rising, like a hot nut right under her sternum.

“Come on!” Jim said, placing his hand on her arm, “We have things to do.”

Shelby wanted to explode, but the Kooning museum was not the place to have a knock-down, drag-out, so she walked stiffly in silence, stewing. They passed toward the entrance until they reached an area dominated by a huge landscape painting; the most famous work in the museum. It was a scene of icebergs, a giant white slope, under a brown and purple sky. The ice in the foreground was littered with debris, a shattered mast, a glacier torn boulder. The ice rose in craggy veined cliffs pierced by a surprising emerald green frozen tunnel. The calm sea was disturbed only by circular waves radiating out from some unseen event.

She could not stand it any more, she was so furious. Shelby pulled away and sat quickly down on a circular bench in front of the painting. Jim sat down beside her, staring wide-eyed. Pulling in her anger, she started to speak.

“Jim I…”

“Excuse me, folks,” said a man they hadn’t noticed. He was gray-haired, wearing old jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. He was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, a large sketchpad resting on his knees. “Do you mind sitting there for a while, I’d like to draw the two of you. If you don’t mind.”

Jim stammered, “Well, we have…”

“Sure, go right ahead,” Shelby interrupted.

“Alright then, umm. turn toward each other a little, now look at me…. Fine, why don’t you hold her hand a little…. That’s right.”

He started drawing right away. Working with colored pencils and some charcoal and a bit of an eraser. Jim and Shelby felt nervous; the fight, their day quickly forgotten.

“Ummm… try to relax, why don’t you tell me a story. Tell me about when you first met.”

“Well,” Jim started. Shelby was surprised that he spoke up so soon. She was getting ready to talk, but he beat her to it.

“We met in junior high school, seventh grade, we were both thirteen. She sat if front of me in
English class. I remember, I loved her from the first moment I saw her. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Our teacher was old, he would lean on a podium and lecture us all class long. The room was too small, our desks were crammed together, her seat backed right up against my desk. All I would do is sit there and stare at Shelby’s hair. Her blonde hair. Sometimes she’d wear it down and it would fall in cascades right in front of me. Sometimes she’d wear it up, like a golden seashell, a yellow spiral. Sometimes in one ponytail, sometimes two, it didn’t matter. That was my favorite hour of every day, to sit in that hot crowded room and look at Shelby’s hair. I felt like I could do this forever, for the rest of my life.”

Shelby and Jim sat there then and talked. They talked of old times, when they were young and when they started dating. They talked of old friends. They talked of their first apartment, of their first house, of the cars they had bought together, of the meals they had cooked, of the vacations they had taken. They talked until the artist finished. He put his pencils back into a little wooden case.

“Done.”

“Well, can we see it?” they asked together.

“See it? You can have it.”

“Really?”

“Really”

He handed them the paper and thanked them simply. The artist walked around the corner and was gone.

The drawing had the iceberg painting in the background. Carefully done in colored pencil it was amazingly detailed and accurate. He must have been working on it for hours. The painting, or, rather the drawing of the painting faded in an oval spot near the center. He drew only around the edges, leaving a blank spot, waiting as he drew for someone to come along and fill it.

Shelby and Jim filled the oval. She gasped as she saw it, it was a life-like drawing, done in pencil and charcoal, cross-hatch and shades of gray, only a hint of color added. Detailed. It was realistic except that they both were drawn naked.

The lower right corner had a quickly scribbled “ES.”

Over a dozen people surrounded them watching the famous artist work, but Jim and Shelby had not even noticed. Embarrassed by the gathering crowd pointing to details on the sketch, they rolled up the drawing, and headed out to their parked car. They held hands as they walked, Shelby leaned her head on Jim’s shoulder as he drove.

They spent a lot of money to have the print professionally framed and mounted. Never really comfortable with the nudity, they couldn’t hang it in their living room. The framer recognized the signature, told them it would bring a lot of money at a sale and recommended a gallery. Jim and Shelby couldn’t sell it, though, it meant too much to them. They did hang it, in their bedroom, next to the closet.

For many decades, it was the last thing they saw at night when they went to sleep, the first thing in the morning when they woke up.

Short Story of the Day – Lobsters, by Elisabeth Dahl

Tom’s barrel chest jerked up, then down at regular intervals, following the dictates of the hospital ventilator. Attached to the machine, he seemed all torso, his lower half an afterthought, like the straw-haired Resusci Annies that he’d haul around the high school gym during CPR units. That was long ago, when he was the coach and Helen was the music teacher and they were, improbably perhaps, in love.

—-Elisabeth Dahl, Lobsters

Crystal Beach, Texas

Today’s short story has a setting that, unfortunately, a good number of us are probably going to be experiencing soon… sitting in a hospital room with a loved one (or, technically, an ex-loved one) on a respirator.

Read it here:

Lobsters, by Elisabeth Dahl

from American Short Fiction

In the opening paragraph of the story, quoted above, is a reference to Resusci Annies. From the context, I assumed this was a CPR mannequin, but I wasn’t sure. I looked it up and sure enough, that’s what it meant. But, as often happens with this internet thing and all its rabbit holes – I found a story as interesting, if not more, that the short story itself. The face of a mysterious French girl who drowned in the Seine in the 19th century ended up saving millions of lives.

One small part of the story:

The lyric “Annie, are you OK?” from the Michael Jackson song “Smooth Criminal” actually stems from American CPR training, in which students practice speaking to their unresponsive plastic patient, CPR Annie.

A Month of Short Stories 2017, Day 28 – The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde

Downtown 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 28 – The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde
Read it online here:
The Model Millionaire by Oscar Wilde

Unless one is wealthy there is no use in being a charming fellow. Romance is the privilege of the rich, not the profession of the unemployed. The poor should be practical and prosaic. It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating. These are the great truths of modern life which Hughie Erskine never realized. Poor Hughie! Intellectually, we must admit, he was not of much importance. He never said a brilliant or even an ill-natured thing in his life. But then he was wonderfully good-looking, with his crisp brown hair, his clear-cut profile, and his grey eyes. He was as popular with men as he was with women, and he had every accomplishment except that of making money.
—-Oscar Wilde, The Model Millionaire

Today’s story is a simple one – a man, not necessarily a great or charitable man, makes a great and charitable gesture, and suffers the consequences.

There is nobody better at writing aphorisms than Oscar Wilde. Even his fiction is generously sprinkled with entertaining pithy tidbits of wisdom that can be extracted and stand on their own. Finding these not-so-hidden jewels embedded in the text is one of the joys of reading Wilde.

Dorothy Parker said in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

A short list of Oscar Wilde Aphorisms (there are many, many more):

  1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.
  2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
  3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
  4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
  5. The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.
  6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
  7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
  8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
  9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.
  10. There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
  11. Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.
  12. Woman begins by resisting a man`s advances and ends by blocking his retreat.
  13. Beware of women who do not hide their age. A woman who reveals her age is capable of anything.
  14. A thing is not necessarily right because a man dies for it.
  15. Art is the most intense form of individualism that the world has known.
  16. I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.
  17. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
  18. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
  19. True friends stab you in the front.
  20. Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
  21. Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
  22. I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.
  23. Action is the last refuge of those who cannot dream.
  24. I can resist everything except temptation.
  25. I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.
  26. The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
  27. Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious. Both are disappointed.
  28. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
  29. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
  30. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
  31. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?
  32. A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.
  33. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
  34. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.
  35. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.

Oscar Wilde:

Upon the other hand, whenever a community or a powerful section of a community, or a government of any kind, attempts to dictate to the artist what he is to do, Art either entirely vanishes, or becomes stereotyped, or degenerates into a low and ignoble form of craft. A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist. Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known. I am inclined to say that it is the only real mode of Individualism that the world has known. Crime, which, under certain conditions, may seem to have created Individualism, must take cognizance of other people and interfere with them. It belongs to the sphere of action. But alone, without any reference to his neighbors, without any interference, the artist can fashion a beautiful thing; and if he does not do it solely for his own pleasure, he is not an artist at all.
—-from The Soul of Man under Socialism

Rising cloud over the Hyatt, downtown Dallas, Texas