Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Spring Fever Dreams, by Suzanne W. Vincent

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

― Pablo Neruda

Artwork, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Spring Valley Station, Richardson, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday, August 6, 2001 – Almost Exactly twenty years ago.

Spring

A long time ago I noticed a sign along the Interstate Loop along my drive to work. The sign promised “Pure Texas Spring Water” and sure enough, by the sign, water ran out of the ground, bubbling up and then running down to stain the gutter of the highway and down to a street curb drain. I parked and walked to the spring, taking a picture of the sign and writing about it in my journal.

In the time since, almost a year, I have driven by that spot almost every day (though I’ve changed jobs, that part of my commute is the same). I allowed myself the fantasy of imagining that it really was a spring, an old relic of geology, a fold of shale, maybe an ancient beach, forcing a bit of water to the surface, surviving the excavation and grading of the giant loop road.

Now, the illusion has been shattered. There are four little tiny blue plastic flags mounted on short wires stuck in the ground – squaring off the spot where the water gurgles up.

Now I know that it is a leaky pipe and someone is getting ready to finally dig it up and fix the thing. I’m glad they will stop the waste but somehow, my morning commute will be even a bit more dreary.

Some humor concerning a water leak on the highway.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Spring Fever Dreams, by Suzanne W. Vincent

from Flash Fiction Online

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Running of the Bulls, New Orleans

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday July 27, 1997 – Exactly twenty four years ago.

Pissing in the Street

My house is a set of two rectangular blocks. One for the main residence and another, set at right angles, for the garage. Simple, cheap, boring. The only break in the monotony is one corner of the house is missing; a space carved away for the front door. This space also is a cube; a square negative room. We put a little bench there, I’m growing English Ivy up the brick wall side and around the edges on the ground. Crape Myrtles line the west side, bushes line the front. I have been letting the plants grow, trimming them when necessary but mostly letting them find their own way; painting in with green. The Crape Myrtles are now big enough to develop the smooth, curvy bark that is so attractive. I am trying to create a little restful garden spot here; a connection with the outside world.

Late Saturday night I sat out there on the bench to do some writing. I had put in an outlet for Christmas lights, it powered up my laptop so I didn’t have to worry about batteries. It was after midnight and surprisingly warm and muggy. I was sweating through my T-shirt but it was still nice to get out into some more or less fresh air. I expected some peace and quiet out there.

The entire neighborhood is a fractal expansion of my rectangular house. Rectangular lot; rectangular block; rectangular subdivision. It is set on a bias. Parallel to the closest Interstate. All laid out for the maximum profit for the long-bankrupt developer; subject to the sacred call of the auto. The suburb was literally thrown together, get ’em built, get out. Now it is a boring, sleepy village within a city. Full of families (who would live here if they didn’t have kids?). Lawns mowed, identically edged, trees, shrubs, cars, trucks, boats, RV’s.

I expected silence out there. The walls of the house are a powerful barrier; more mental than physical. Within the cocoon, the illusion of suburban life is complete; kitchen (fridge and microwave), couch, TV, (computer) the stops on the limited journey of an illusion of life. The background A/C hum supplies the white noise that destroys any vibrations leaking in from the real world. Simply walking through the door and sitting outside the walls is subversive, against the tenets of American Suburb Family Law.

I expected silence out there. There was a rumble in the distance. The isosceles triangle of Interstate Highways that mark out the area where we live provide a clamor of rubber on concrete, creaking steel, squealing tires, booming horns, the hiss of eighteen wheel compressed air leaving brake cylinders. The call of a race of steel giants racing along; my presence unknown and unimportant; life itself rushing along the asphalt, going to God knows where.

Against this rhythm in the distance the symphony of my neighborhood was completed by the melody and accompaniment of local sounds. Someone was having a hell of a fight. I couldn’t tell where it came from; it sounded like the house directly across, but that house was dark; sound does travel on a calm, warm night. The sounds of battle might be coming from a long way off. Male voices, female voices, maybe six or so in all. Screaming, cussing (I couldn’t pick out individual words, but somehow the shouted obscenities could be identified for what they were), the sound of tinkling glass. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes; then the sound of squealing tires and it ended.

I expected silence out there. A house across my street has some teenage daughters, there are always guys in cars hanging out there at night; like alley cats or dogs in heat. A pickup truck roared down the road and screeched to a halt in front of their house. As the truck rumbled the horn honked on and on. Then it sped off, returning in a couple minutes with another car. The honking resumed. I couldn’t see much, I was screened by the bushes, but I could tell by the sounds that a bunch of people were out milling around. Nobody paid any attention to me as I typed; I’m not sure if they saw me or not but I’m sure that if they looked I was visible, my face lit by the screen on the laptop.

I expected silence out there. I heard a noise, liquid, running. Someone was pissing in the street. It was a lot; I know that kind of a piss, beer piss. Looking out through the leaves all I could see was a bare stomach and chest; young, slim, bejeaned; illuminated bright red from the filtered brakelights of the still idling pickup. The cacophany didn’t lessen with the urinating. I couldn’t tell how many voices were mingled in a melange of obscenities, lies, boasts, teasings, the usual testosterone late night drunken summernight pickup revelry.

The little impromptu party continued. It sure didn’t sound like fun, or sexy, or youthful. It was almost tired, frustrated, even mean. There was some stupid shoving, the house door slammed twice, tinkling of broken glass on the sidewalk, and the vehicles roared away. They circled the block twice and were gone.

I finished my typing and found that Candy had woken up and discovered the front door unlocked. I rooted around in the ivy for a half hour until I found the hiding place for the extra key. I didn’t want to ring the bell, It would wake the kids and scare my wife.

Candy says that all kids hang out like those folks were, it’s harmless. She’s right, of course, twenty-odd years ago I spent more than one night hanging out near some cute-young-thing’s house, drinking beer and boasting. They must be out there a lot; it’s not unusual to find beer cans or brown broken glass in our yard, the Mazda has an extra dent where someone bounced a quart bottle off the hood, a couple times there’s been tire tracks in our yard.

Maybe I’m being an old fuddy-duddy but I’m not entirely at ease with those kids out there, only a few feet and some sheetrock and siding away from my sleeping sons. Or maybe I’m jealous, wishing my days of hanging out weren’t receding so far into the past, that my stomach doesn’t look like the one on the guy pissing in the street.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Everything They Are Running From And a Few Things They Are Running Towards, by Matt Kendrick

from Cheap Pop

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, End of the Line, by Matt Kendrick

“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak!”

― George Bernard Shaw

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Conjoined, Roxy Paine

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, September 22, 1998

Ground Stump

We had this big ash tree in the back yard. Not a very good tree. It had obviously been cut down once before and sprouted back with these multiple trunks splayed out in all directions. A “junk tree,” it grew fast and weak. Invaded by borers, several big limbs had already fallen off.

The final straw was the summer’s drought. This ash had a shallow root system and was way too close to the house. It sucked water out from under our foundation, helping to worsen the cracking and moving as the drying expansive clays pulled out from under the slab. The tree did provide some nice shade, but the live oak I planted a few years ago is growing up, it will be a stronger, longer-lived tree.

Ordinarily, I would cut it down myself. About a week of work. But I don’t have the time or energy. We gave in and hired a crew to remove the tree and grind the stump, three hundred fifty bucks. Today was the day.

Poor Lee was upset. He is still young enough that all things, especially living things have personality and soul and are valuable. Lee didn’t want us to kill the tree. I explained about the foundation and the fact that it would give us a lot more room in the backyard, but he wouldn’t give in until I agreed to let him plant an acorn.

I came home from work to find an enormous pile of wood and leaves along the front of our house, waiting for the city to come pick it up. It is amazing how different the back yard looks. Bigger and wide open. Almost naked. Lee was out there collecting sawdust, the soft remnants of the ground up stump, in a big bowl that he conned Candy out of.

And digging a hole for his acorn.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

End of the Line, by Matt Kendrick

from Splonk

Matt Kendrick Homepage

Matt Kendrick Twitter

Walking Along Governor Nichols Street

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Four, Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ancient tree growing through the sidewalk, Governor NIchols Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Walking in the morning is too hard. My feet ache from all the walking the day before, my leg muscles are stiff and weak from sleeping all night. The morning humidity is difficult to breathe as if the moisture is displacing all the oxygen.

Time oppresses this morning. I can feel the burden of centuries in the teetering live oaks growing out of the sidewalks – their ancient roots beginning to slip and rise, pushing the bricks and slabs of concrete up and aside like they are packing peanuts.

I have seen these trees lying on their sides after a violent storm. Enormous root ball exposed to the air – an obscene display of the oak’s private parts.

How many storms, named and ancient anonymous, have these giant trees endured.

Some of them… I don’t think they will make it through the next one.

I have been through too many storms – some quiet, some loud, and they have left be bent. How many more do I have left?

Not too many, maybe not enough.

Procrastination with Google Maps

I have been suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block and have been spending too much time staring at a blank screen, waiting in vain for some sort of a useful idea to come bubbling up from… well, from wherever useful ideas bubble up from. Of course, the staring doesn’t last very long until it is replaced by silly web-surfing. You know how that goes.

So I was wasting time by GoogleMap StreetViewing (I’m no fan of the current fashion of converting tech nouns into verbs, such as in the phrase of “Netflixing through Mad Men,” but this is what life is in this best of all possible worlds with) places that I used to live and I came up with this shot:

Live Oak in back of the house I used to live in.

Live Oak in back of the house I used to live in.

First, it’s interesting that in my old neighborhood they even have GoogleMaps StreetView in the alley. Let that sink in for a minute. Not only did the Google car drive down the street taking photos willy-nilly to post for all to see, but then it proceeded to creep down the alley in back of the houses, doing the same thing. The alleys there were extra-wide (the kids used to cone them off at the end of the block and play roller hockey on the concrete) but… just sayin’.

What I thought was cool is that tree there. The big one in the corner of what used to be my yard.

My son Nick (now in his final classes at Duke University) was a toddler. He was born in East Dallas, a few miles north of this spot, and we moved before our second son, Lee (now a financial analyst in New Orleans) was born eighteen months later. I’m pretty sure the tree was planted before Lee was born, so Nick would have been about a year old.

I took Nick down to the Dallas Arboreteum for a Saturday afternoon. When we arrived, I discovered they were giving out free trees. I picked up a Live Oak planted in a recycled coffee can and brought it home, intending to plant it in the yard of our then-new-to-us home.

It looked substantial in the can, but after digging the hole and getting rid of the container the tree was only about an inch and a half high. It was dwarfed by the weeds that surrounded it. Everybody thought it was ridiculous and that I was an idiot for planting such a tiny sprig.

Still, despite the ridicule (probably because of the ridicule) I stuck it out. I carefully marked out the area around the twig to make sure it wasn’t mowed over or trampled upon. I watered it faithfully and tended it as best I could.

And, wonder of wonders, it grew. Fast. It grew like a weed. I talked to a friend that is a landscape architect and he said, “The smaller a tree is when you plant it, the bigger it will be in ten years.” Something that small doesn’t suffer the shock of transplantation, which sets a tree way back.

A few years later, it was already as high as my head. Putting in a new fence, the wind caught a panel and yanked it out of my hands. It landed on the tall, but still thin tree, smashing it flat. I was horrified.

I carefully raised the reedy trunk back up and staked the tree in position. I expected it to die, but, surprise, it didn’t miss a beat.

And now look at it. It’s one of the largest trees in the neighborhood. When we moved in, the block was thick with fast-growing “junk” trees – put in by the original developer to give quick green. Those have all now (mostly) succumbed to disease and are either gone or skeletal ghosts.

The sturdy oak is still growing.

I’m proud of the fact that I planted that tree (also proud that I got it for free). We moved out about ten years ago, when our kids were in Middle School. Nobody in the neighborhood knows this story, but I do, and that’s what’s important.

It’s also cool that the tree is the same age as my kids. If you have little ones – go out and plant a tree in your yard, or a park, or somewhere that needs one. The decades go by faster than you imagine is possible and a sturdy oak will rise to mark the passage of time with some welcome shade.

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life

While I was going on my little bike ride in New Orleans I made a quick stop on the river side of Audubon Park, next to the Zoo. There is a cool tree there – an ancient (planted circa 1740) and enormous live oak. Locals call it the “Tree of Life” – its official name is the Etienne de Boré Oak. It’s a beautiful spot – very popular for wedding photographs – and was worth a look even on a rainy and overcast cold day.

My commuter bike by the Etienne de Boré Oak - Audubon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

My commuter bike by the Etienne de Boré Oak – Audubon Park, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

I noticed a work crew with a highlift and a series of ladders working around the tree – laying down plywood for stability in the muddy soil. A van pulled up and discharged a couple of women drinking hot coffee. They walked over to the workmen and began to plan a project.

Walking around, I found a large collection of finely detailed birdhouses. Most were still in a pile off to the side, but a bunch of them had already been hung off the branches, mixed in with the Spanish Moss.

Birdhouses waiting to be installed, Audubon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Birdhouses waiting to be installed, Audubon Park, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

It was pretty cool – I wished that I could stay and see them all hung up there – but I had places to be so I peddled on.

Now I have had time to look up the installation online. It was an advertisement for an online peer to peer house rental company, Airbnb.com. Each of the birdhouses had been carefully made as a tiny duplicate of real homes that are for rent on their service.

Neat little advertising gimmick, if you ask me.

Slideshow of the birdhouses and the homes for rent they represent.

Covered in Ice

“Maybe it’s wrong when we remember breakthroughs to our own being as something that occurs in discrete, extraordinary moments. Maybe falling in love, the piercing knowledge that we ourselves will someday die, and the love of snow are in reality not some sudden events; maybe they were always present. Maybe they never completely vanish, either.”
― Peter Høeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow

The trees that still had their leaves, mostly oaks, were the ones to suffer the most. (click to enlarge)

The trees that still had their leaves, mostly oaks, were the ones to suffer the most.
(click to enlarge)

I read on facebook where somebody here in Dallas wrote, under a nice bright picture of downtown, “I remember when it was sunny and eighty degrees… wait, that was yesterday.”

The freezing rain blew in overnight, coating everything in a transparent crystalline shell. I bundled up, breathed the bitter clean air, and carefully walked around the familiar landscape of my yard – transformed into an alien arctic spectacle. When the breeze would blow the world would tinkle with tiny crackling ice. The sun was behind thin clouds but enough light shone through to light up the glassy ice crystals like myriad clear jewels strung everywhere.

We have a huge oak tree in our front yard. Overnight, I could hear wood splitting as the tons of frozen water dripping down the still-attached leaves weighted the wood past its breaking point. In the morning, the yard was littered with limbs, with more broken ones suspended overhead, still stuck in the thick canopy. I’ll have to wait a day or so and then cut the fallen limbs up for firewood and haul the rest to the curb for the city to pick up.

A guy was wandering the neighborhood looking for work – he offered to clear the fall for twenty bucks, which is a more than fair price. I said no… and I’m not sure why, but I think I want to do it myself.