Short Story Of the Day (flash piece), Gator Call by Bill Chance

“Thoreau the “Patron Saint of Swamps” because he enjoyed being in them and writing about them said, “my temple is the swamp… When I would recreate myself, I seek the darkest wood, the thickest and most impenetrable and to the citizen, most dismal, swamp. I enter a swamp as a sacred place, a sanctum sanctorum… I seemed to have reached a new world, so wild a place…far away from human society. What’s the need of visiting far-off mountains and bogs, if a half-hour’s walk will carry me into such wildness and novelty.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings

Alligator, Robert Tabak

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 (#43). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Over the last few summers I have gone to New Orleans for a Writing Marathon. Even though last year’s was a disaster –  I always look forward to it a lot. Let’s see – I learned about the New Orleans Writing Marathon on November 11, 2012 when Candy ran into one of the participants at breakfast at St. Vincent’s Guest House.

Obviously, it was not going to be possible to pull this off live this year. So they did a virtual writing event instead. It was fun, not as fun as the real thing, but cool nonetheless. We did three writing sessions –  one10 minutes, and two 20 or so.  That gives me three entries. I did edit them a bit and change the point of view. It is what it is.


Gator Call

My boss on the construction project was from Boston and was completely freaked out by the whole thing of working in the Louisiana swamp. He kept me around because I had worked here before and had experience my whole life in tropical, dangerous, insane places. I don’t know how many times I had to reassure him that it was going to be OK – that we weren’t all going to die, killed by water that rose from the ground, or bees, or snakes or any of the other horrible things that lived in the swamp. I don’t know if he was crazy or I was… probably both of us.

Luckily, our work crew was great. They were local Cajuns – I think that all twenty of them were related to each other in one way or another. They were used to working in heat and in dangerous conditions and would follow instructions and work really really hard right up until five PM. At the minute the day ended they would drop what they were doing and the coolers of beer would pop out of their trunks.

One day, the work crew super, an old, sturdy Cajun with a name that had way too many vowels in it asked the guy from Boston, “Hey, you wanna go see my ‘gator?” Of course we did.

We piled into his rusty pickup and drove for an hour through the densest jungle on oil lease dirt roads past thick trees, tangling vines, and stretches of open water. Finally we stopped at a little bridge where a huge pipeline emerged from the much and crossed on a little bridge.

The super began giving his “Gator Call” – an inhuman whooping and throwing chunks of white bread into the water.

“This is nuts!” I said to myself. When I looked up the pair were standing on top of the pipeline. The guy from Boston’s eyes were so big they were touching. He was pointing at the water at something but couldn’t talk.

“What the hell are you guys doing up there? How did you climb up there so fast?” I said as I followed his finger into the water.

Suddenly a huge tree I had been staring at opened its mouth and gobbled up a soggy hunk of bread. It wasn’t a tree, it was an alligator. In the next split second I discovered I was standing on the pipe next to the other two.

It looked like a dinosaur. I had seen small alligators in zoos – but this was different.

I learned something that day. I didn’t know that alligators ate bread.

Short Story Of the Day (flash piece), A Disease That Kills Off Ghosts by Bill Chance

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.”
― Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

French Quarter
New Orleans, Louisiana
Halloween

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 (#42). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Over the last few summers I have gone to New Orleans for a Writing Marathon. Even though last year’s was a disaster –  I always look forward to it a lot. Let’s see – I learned about the New Orleans Writing Marathon on November 11, 2012 when Candy ran into one of the participants at breakfast at St. Vincent’s Guest House.

Obviously, it was not going to be possible to pull this off live this year. So they did a virtual writing event instead. It was fun, not as fun as the real thing, but cool nonetheless. We did three writing sessions –  one10 minutes, and two 20 or so.  That gives me three entries. I did edit them a bit and change the point of view. It is what it is.


A Disease That Kills Off Ghosts

Sam couldn’t have imagined the French Quarter empty. Most of the Bourbon street bars never close – they are open all night, every night – or were. Because they never planned on closing they don’t even have doors. They had to nail plywood over the openings.

Molly’s on Decatur and a few other places barely closed during Katrina. And now they are empty. The streets are deserted. The pavement untrodden and the air unvibrated with music or shouting.

Sam found it to be beautiful in one sense. He lives in a high rise downtown and gets up before dawn to beat the awful summer humidity for his morning run. Sam now runs in the quarter, up Decatur and down Chartres, up Bourbon and down Royal. At dawn he has the beauty and the history all to himself.

But it isn’t right. It isn’t the same. Sam has seen some of the streets at odd times – times odder than He’d like to admit – times when there weren’t very many people out (and the people that were out you don’t want to meet). But nothing like this.

The ghosts can’t come out in times like this. A disease that kills off ghosts. Because how can you have ghosts without people to haunt? How can you have a specter without crowds to gasp.

It is a gap in time. A space without history. All spaces have ends, though. He can’t imagine the end – but it will come. The crowds, the drunks the music will reappear.

And so will the ghosts.

Short Story Of the Day (flash piece), Sam is a Writer by Bill Chance

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

The Window at Molly’s, the street (Decatur) unusually quiet, with notebook, vintage Esterbrook pen, and Molly’s frozen Irish Coffee

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 (#41). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Over the last few summers I have gone to New Orleans for a Writing Marathon. Even though last year’s was a disaster – I always look forward to it a lot. Let’s see – I learned about the New Orleans Writing Marathon on November 11, 2012 when Candy ran into one of the participants at breakfast at St. Vincent’s Guest House.

Obviously, it was not going to be possible to pull this off live this year. So they did a virtual writing event instead. It was fun, not as fun as the real thing, but cool nonetheless. We did three writing sessions –  one10 minutes, and two 20 or so.  That gives me three entries. I did edit them a bit and change the point of view. It is what it is.


Sam is a writer.

Everyone has their addiction. There are dope addicts with their needles and pipes. Exercise addicts – skinny and sweat. Alcoholics, foodies and bulimics.

You don’t get to decide if you are an addict or not – if you think you are, you are, if you don’t think you’re an addict – well, addicts don’t always know they are addicts. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

When Sam was young he said that since everyone is an addict it was important to pick a good addiction. Now, older, he’s not even sure that you can choose your addiction. Yeah, maybe you can steer your course a little one way or another – but for the most part you don’t choose your addiction, your addiction chooses you.

Sam is a writing addict. There are all the hallmarks. There two stacks of Moleskines – one stack are full books, the others waiting. There are tins full of fountain pens. There are three laptops and a crazy portable keyboard. There are two computers, one set up in such a way that it can only be used as a word processor.

He can’t go to sleep at night unless he has written at least an hour. He can’t, really. He’s tried. When Sam is hit by writer’s block it’s like a junkie with no heroin in town. Horrible. Withdrawls.

Sometime the withdrawal is so painful Sam is forced to pull a Jack Torrance – His sentence of choice is The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog…. Written over and over again. It has all the letters at least. But it isn’t satisfying, it is like a vampire with only raw hamburger.

So Sam writes. Does He write well? Usually not. But there is that rush when He falls into the writing and the world disappears. The rush. Another addict’s word.

That’s Sam’s addiction. Word Counts – hours spent scribbling.

But now Sam needs to change his addiction. He needs to get addicted to editing. Because writing isn’t really writing. Writing is typing. Editing is writing. But in Editing there is no rush – except maybe when you are finished – and Sam is never finished.

That’s what an addiction is all about. Never finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sic Mundus Creatus Est

“The distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”
― Albert Einstein

Dark

It was almost a year ago when I became seriously ill during a writing event in New Orleans (this year’s event has been cancelled – not sure if I would have gone – will try to go next year). The blog entry is here: Back From the Shadows Again.

So I spent a couple days in intensive care and a few more in the Tulane Medical center. When I was released I was very weak and spent a week at my son’s apartment on Poydras until I felt strong enough to make it back to Dallas.

I spent most of my time there sleeping or struggling with reality. My son Lee has a studio apartment with a massive HD television that dominates the longest wall. While I was fading in and out of this world, he was binge watching some incredibly strange German-language television show. He apologized for ignoring me and watching for hours on end – but I needed to be left alone so I could rest and it was fine. I was not completely conscious and looking at the television from an angle – I was not sure exactly what I was seeing (and could not read the subtitles). What I thought I saw was extremely odd and sort of disturbing and haunted my illness-enhanced dreams.

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

“Lee, what the hell are you watching?” I asked.

“Dark.” Was his reply.

When I made it back to Dallas I had to see what it was that Lee had binged and I had sort-of been subjected to.

Sure enough, it was Dark – the first Netflix original German Language series. There had been two seasons so far, with a third (and final) one scheduled for the future. Eventually, as my life returned to normal, I watched the thing – eagerly expecting something odd and original.

It certainly was that and more. True to its title, it is dark. It is a strange, incredibly complex tale of time travel and evil that makes Stranger Things (which it is sometimes mistakenly compared to) look like Fuller House. The fact that it is in German makes it even more exotic (dubbing is available but not recommended). I really enjoyed it – even though I had to take extensive notes and do online research after each episode to try and keep up with the convoluted and confusing tangle of characters (most appear at different times and different ages – everyone is related to everyone else in unexpected ways).

Certain scenes had been burned into my mind from that New Orleans sick bed – it was fun to see them reappear in context. The discovery of the “God Particle” in the future (and in the past) was one.

The God Particle

And now the third (and final) season is about to drop (June 27, 2020 – the day of the Dark apocalypse). So I’m re-binging the original (a couple episodes a day as I ride my spin bike) and refreshing my notes.

The Date of the Dark Apocalypse

You only have a few days left – be there or be square.

The question is not where – it is when.

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, The Last Parade by Steve Prusky

It all ended at midnight, Fat Tuesday. Avoiding goodbyes, the sulking couple wandered, heads bowed, on a side street toward Canal, as if searching the ancient pavers on the Quarter’s cobbled road for advice on what parting words to say.

—-Steve Prusky, The Last Parade

Lee now, in New Orleans

New Orleans – Mardi Gras, Krewe of Zulu parade.

There are millions of Mardi Gras stories from New Orleans – a lot are the same.

Read it here:

The Last Parade by Steve Prusky

from The Flash Fiction Offensive

 

Back From the Shadows Again

“We are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, I live in terror of not being misunderstood”—- Oscar Wilde

 

Let’s see, the last blog entry I wrote was on July 7, 2019 – on the eve of my annual trip to New Orleans for the Writing Marathon. That was almost three months ago – a long gap for me.

I’d like to say that I’ve simply been busy with other things and decided to take a break for no real reason. I’d like to say that… but it wouldn’t be true. It’s a long and complicated story and some of it I’m going to keep under wraps – a lot of it isn’t just my story – but here’s the ten cent version. It may not be completely accurate – my memory is hazy.

Every year I look forward to the writing marathon in New Orleans. But this year, I thought about skipping. First, Candy had some surgery and wasn’t really up and around completely. She assured me that it would be cool if I went. As the day approached I realized I didn’t feel very good. Among other symptoms I was weak and tired all the time.

It took me a few minutes to realize this originally said “art changed my life” — French Quarter NewOrleans.

Checking into what it would take to cancel I realized everything (two hotels, parking, the conference fee etc.) was already paid for and non-refundable. A week of vacation was scheduled and my work arranged. So I decided to go.

The drive to New Orleans wasn’t too bad – I’ve made that trip more than a few times. To make the trip easier I had a hotel in Gonzales – most of the way. I could sleep there, get up fresh and drive the last few miles. There was no hurry, but I had a hell of a time getting out of bed. Eventually I hauled myself into the car and drove on into the Big Easy… and checked into my French Quarter Hotel. It was a beautiful piece of luxurious historical lodging and I was excited… though a bit worn out.

The first evening reception of the Writing Marathon was great. This was the third year I had attended and there were a lot of familiar faces and old stories going around. I was excited for the week of walking around and writing.

The only problem was, everybody kept saying the same thing, “Bill, you don’t look too good.” And I felt really weak. I begged off going out to eat and live music and went back to my hotel.

And proceeded to get really, really sick.

One scary thing is that I remember spending one day in that room but it turns out I might have been there for three. I must have been unconscious/delirious and unaware of the passage of time. I do remember looking around my hotel room and seeing things as they were, but when I’d close my eyes I would see someplace else – some kind of seaside scene. Back home, Candy and Nick were upset because they couldn’t find me (I wasn’t answering my cell phone). Lee was on his way back to New Orleans from the Galapagos Islands.

Finally, I realized how much trouble I was in and called the front desk. The kicker is that I couldn’t breathe. It felt like a panic attack – but I realized that there is a big difference between not being able to breathe because you are having a panic attack and having a panic attack because you can’t breathe. I was able to stagger to the front desk and they put me in a cab that was always at the step and sent me to an urgent care center.

The cab driver, a grizzled old veteran of the French Quarter said, “Hey, you look like you’re having congestive heart failure. The last guy I had like that was dead in three days.”

The urgent care center took one look at me and realized I was too far gone for them and stuck me in an ambulance. At that time, Lee had come back from the airport and called the hotel. They said they sent me to an urgent care center, but didn’t know which one.

Lee lives car-less in downtown New Orleans so he looked up urgent care on his phone and rented a bike. Later, he told me that it was a good thing – that he could get around in the quarter faster on the bike than in a car. The first two places he checked were wrong and then he rode up to the place I was at as they were loading me into the ambulance. He said I didn’t look too good. They wouldn’t tell him anything until he begged and they said they were taking me to the Tulane Medical Center.

So, what happened? It turns out that it started with a urinary tract infection that then spread to my bloodstream and set off a serious attack of Diabetic Ketoacidosis. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but alone I probably would have been dead in about six hours. However, they knew immediately what was wrong and with treatment, I improved quickly.

I spent a couple days in intensive care. Going through my mind constantly was the Dorothy Parker quote, “What fresh hell is this?” The worst was the fact I had eight (yes, I counted ‘em – including one triple on my right arm) IV tubes and needles stuck in both arms and one foot. Whenever I would move it would set an alarm off and I would lay there listening to that awful BEEP BEEP until someone would come by and reset the machines.

It was a lot better when I was moved into a regular hospital bed and after a few days I was released. Lee’s apartment was only a few blocks away and I felt like I could walk there. But the minute I hit the pavement and the Louisiana summer heat I realized that I didn’t have the strength, sat down on a bench and waited for a ride.

That turned into a theme as I stayed at Lee’s place for almost a week until I regained enough strength to make it back to Dallas. If I rested I would feel OK, but as soon as I actually moved it would take all my energy. Simply taking a shower was about all I could muster.

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

One day, while Lee was at work I decided I could walk to the grocery store, Rouses. I made it to the store, bought some food, then realized I wasn’t going to be able to walk back (only two blocks or so). I waited outside until Lee came by after work – and was able to shuffle back with him carrying the bags.

Even after returning home, regaining my strength was a slow process. I did go back to work as soon as I could – walking across the parking lot the first day back was a serious effort.

Then I found myself having not ridden a bicycle in two months. That first day I climbed on and rode two miles. After that short distance, I felt like I had finished the Tour de France. So I made up a chart and some goals and have been working on building up my mileage since – up to ten miles per day – I was able to ride 300 miles total in September and am almost getting to where I need to be.

There has been this personal journey to put my life back together. One last thing is my writing – and I’m about there. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to write here every day, there are a lot of other things going on, but I promise I won’t have another gap like that if I can help it.

Off to the Big Easy

I’ll be in New Orleans for the New Orleans Writing Marathon for the next week. I’m taking my laptop, but I’m not sure if I’ll be posting here.

See you on the flipside.

(click to enlarge) Sixth and Camp in New Orleans – a beautiful row of Camelback Shotgun Houses

All Work And No Play Make Jack A Dull Boy

Yesterday, I wrote about riding my bike and drinking coffee. I really like my little thermos that I bought years ago at a gift shop called Plum (now sadly gone) off Magazine Street in New Orleans. It is small and has a cool leather wrap printed with graphics inspired by The Shining.

 

It’s pretty cool and keeps the coffee pretty hot.

My coffee thermos.

Acquiring A Taste

“Keep on acquiring a taste for what is naturally repugnant; this is an unfailing source of pleasure.”

Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies

 

I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited last year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.

I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a few words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the people. This is the last one I have (for now).

Previous:

Two Women

A Guy, His Girlfriend, and His Uncle

Meet in Air

Red Molly in a Leather Jacket

Time’s Relentless Melt

Found by a photobooth,
Molly’s At the Market, French Quarter, New Orleans

They were so excited – the drink had been so ballyhooed they even decided to throw it down in a photobooth and record the wondrous moment for posterity.

Unfortunately the stuff, despite its fame, sucked.

Time’s Relentless Melt

All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
Susan Sontag

I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited last year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.

I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a few words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the two people.

Previous:

Two Women

A Guy, His Girlfriend, and His Uncle

Meet in Air

Red Molly in a Leather Jacket

Black and White love

They were in Love. Mad and passionate, unbelievable love – like being lost in a world unimaginable, but with someone else there. There had been a lot of madness and passion and even a little bit of love in that French Quarter bar, but they felt like they were the first and last. Everybody does.

They were both afraid to take the photos. Maybe photographs can’t steal your soul, but maybe they can steal your love. Especially black and white photos, especially machine-made photos. This is dangerous ground.

So they abandoned the little strip after it fell out, threw it on the dirty floor right outside the bathroom. Someone found it and thumbtacked it to the wall. If you could find the person that tacked it up (and you can’t) they wouldn’t be able to tell you why they bent over and picked it up, or why they pushed the rusty old pin through the paper. It fell five more times, the cork was old and brittle, as if it was trying to escape, but someone always put it back.

They shouldn’t have worried. Photographs, especially black and white ones, do steal your soul and do steal your passion. But there is plenty more left – an unending fountain, really, if that is what you want. The photos are only gifts, bits thrown out into the cold night, given away, but never really lost. Never lost.

Time is the real villain – the relentless thief. Time will steal your soul and your passion and your love. Though defeat is inevitable, a photo or two cast out into the pond of the world is one weapon against that inevitable doom of chaos. A small and fleeting victory – but maybe the best you can do. The best they could do.