Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, 100 Word Story, The Phone Call, by Janice Siderius

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

― Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, September 8, 2001 – Exactly twenty years ago. Wow… only twenty years ago… and coming up only three days from 9/11. It’s so strange reading my thoughts from the point of view of a semi-distant future. I talk about getting a new cell phone and a Pocket PC. An iPhone or a Smart Phone only a dream of the future..I (we) had no idea.

Saturday, September 8, 2001, Gadgets

The folks at work, in all their infinite wisdom, have bought me a couple of new cool toys lately.

I try to resist the temptation of becoming a gadget-freak. A fascination with technology is a powerful, seductive trap in this day and age, this best of all possible worlds. The underlying geek-gene is there, though, I can’t deny it. Plus, if somebody else wants to buy me cool stuff… so be it.

I was one of the last hold-outs against having a cell phone. When I finally picked one up with my new job, however, I was hooked. Especially with all the soccer stuff going on, with Candy and I hardly ever being home, driving all over the place, and with me stepping up my business travel, the cell phone became, finally for me, the irreplaceable part of life that it is for everybody else.

Now, they have replaced my run-of-the-mill phone with a new service, one designed for corporate, industrial use. It’s a Nextel phone, with the two-way radio and, especially seductive, internet access. I had to attend a training class, read a big thick manual, and spend hours punching little buttons and fooling around on web sites to set up and learn all the features of the silly thing.

I always thought web access on a cell phone was sort of useless, but it does have its geeky charm. I especially like the movie service. I can code in a film, punch in a zip code, and it will tell me the closest theater and show times, along with directions to get there. It has an amazing word-completion algorithm for entering emails from the otherwise-almost-useless numberpad.

The only problem is that it does not play cool songs when it rings (I had my old phone set to play the theme song from the old puppet TV show – Thunderbirds are Go). When I complained about this to our phone rep she replied, “This phone is intended for the corporate market, we don’t go for the cute sing-song stuff.”

The really cool gadget they bought me, though, wasn’t the cell phone, but a Pocket PC – a Compaq IPAQ. Compaq is apparently discontinuing the black and white units, offering them for an insanely low price, plus a fifty-dollar rebate, so I ordered one.

I think I like this one better than a color unit anyway. The screen is readable enough and the batteries last forever.

A Pocket PC definitely falls into the category of one of those things that you can’t imagine using until you get one, then you can’t imagine living without it. Especially Syncing it up with my PC – downloading maps, Avant Go,… geez, the free ebooks. It isn’t much for writing fiction or journal entries (my Alphasmart is perfect for that, anyway) but it is fine for writing short poems. The slow process of handwriting recognition actually helps the poetry process.

It’s a digital voice recorder and an alarm clock. It’s a crude sketchpad and a file transfer utility.

Of course, like all things addictive, there are add-ons and additions I want. At the top of the list is a big flashcard memory or two. That would let me use it as a killer MP3 player, perfect portable music. Next, a Targus folding keyboard – then I could use it for significant text entry. Then, especially in conjunction with that flashcard, there’s software. I’d love a powerful dictionary and thesaurus program. There’s even something out there that will turn the IPAQ into a programmable multi-function remote control.

Now that’s a gadget addiction.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

The Phone Call, by Janice Siderius

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, 4 A.M. Burrito, by Avalon Dziak

Eating a burrito is like eating a living, breathing organism – you can feel the burrito’s ingredients sigh inside with each bite, each squeeze.”

― Gustavo Arellano

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, August 31, 2001 – Exactly twenty years ago. As I look back 20 years ago… I’m coming up close to September 11, 2001.

Burrito

I’ve been trying,
lately,
to work hard in finding the hard truth
in everything.

But what,
possibly,
could be the hard truth
in a fast food burrito?

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

4 A.M. Burrito, by Avalon Dziak

From Flash Fiction Magazine

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Death in the Desert, by Connie Cockrell

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Cadillac Ranch, West of Amarillo, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, August 12, 2001 – Exactly twenty years ago.

Saguaro

I had a leisurely day today – an actual quiet morning home with Lee while Candy took Nick to a soccer game. This was the last game of their Classic League Tournament – they won today, but still fell short of making it into the league, they were tied for 21st in the tourney with the top twenty teams going making the grade. I did some errands around the house and then packed, getting ready for a flight to Tucson, where I’ll be most of next week.

I decided to leave for the airport two hours before the flight (I hate having to rush for a plane, plus with the craziness that is DFW airport, you never know) but when I was almost there, Candy called me on the cellphone, she had locked her keys in the MiniVan at a birthday party with the kids. She borrowed a car and sped across the top of the city while I doubled back. We met at a restaurant where I pushed my Van key through the window and immediately headed back to the airport.

I still made it in plenty of time… and the flight was delayed too. The flight was packed, overbooked. It was a shame I had an important early meeting scheduled because they were offering three hundred fifty bucks to bump people, and I was sorely tempted. I’m a good corporate drone, though, so I boarded on time.

They had nice little headphones stuck into the magazine pockets on each seat. The armrests had the music, though the quality was bad. I remember when airline headphones were simply twin transparent plastic tubes that conveyed sound from tiny speakers concealed below holes in the armrests. Now, they looked like quality miniature headphones with a standard plug – inside the black plastic headband, though, was black writing.

Please do not remove from airplane. Will not work with home equipment.

I wonder why (or if) they won’t work with home equipment. The plug sure looks the same. There are left and right channels and a center ground, three connectors. I wonder if they manufacture these with the order of the connectors on the plug different than on home equipment. I considered getting my laptop out and trying the thing out, to see if the airline headphones really truly don’t work. I was too tired and this guy was crammed in to close next to me so I didn’t bother.

I’ve never been to Tucson before, never been to Arizona. Walking from the baggage carousel to the rental car I passed a big Saguaro and realized I’d never seen one of those in real life before, either. I’ve always had a soft spot for cactus and was unexpectedly impressed with the beauty of the giant spiny things, the symbols of the desert.

After the flight, I was groggy leaving the rental lot and missed the turn that curled back to the terminal and main airport entrance. Before I could think about it, I was out in the desert on roads that went who knows where. I would have liked to enjoy the scenery, but it was pitch black, desert night black. I made a couple turns on instinct alone and was very happy to see a stretch of lighted palm trees and then my hotel appear out of nowhere.

I checked in, and fell into the sleep of the dead.

And a piece of flash fiction for today:

Death in the Desert, by Connie Cockrell

Connie Cockrell Twitter

Connie Cockrell Random Thoughts

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, Wave Goodbye by Fanni Sütő

“The very instant I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service; there resides
To make me slave to it.


― William Shakespeare

Shakespeare Sculpture, Dallas Arboretum

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, Tuesday, July 17, 2001 (exactly twenty years ago):

Stuff dreams are made on

I had a long couple days at work so I thought I’d reward myself with an evening of free Shakespeare. Candy was able to make arrangements to help her get all the kids to all the places they needed to go. So I was free to take off.

I stopped by the grocery store and bought a salad from the salad bar (make it yourself, 2.99 a pound, little black plastic bowl with clear lid, plastic silverware that I slipped into my pocket instead of the bowl – to save weight) some yogurt, a Mistic Zotics (Mozambique Marula Fruit), and finally – a bottle of Sobe (pink Lizard Fuel – Strawberry and Banana).

The preplay festivities had the clown-players embarrassing as many folks in the crowd as possible. The high point was when three of them were juggling and a member of the audience walked up, pulled three hackysacks from his pockets and joined in.

Tonight is the Tempest and it starts in a half hour or so. I’m full of food and drowsy now so I think I’ll stretch out on my Barney Blanket and nod off for awhile.

The play begins.

This production has the most important features for a successful Tempest – nasty-lookin’ babes and skimpy outfits.

I like how they do the storm – the chorus whips a green parachute into violent waves while the actors stand up in holes through the fabric.

And today’s flash fiction:

Wave Goodbye by Fanni Sütő

from Selcouth Station

Fanni Sütő

Fanni Sütő homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Stay by Sarah Freligh

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

― Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

When you pick a mudbug up – he’ll spread his claws out and try to look as big and as mean as he can. He still looks delicious – no matter how hard he tries.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, September 9, 2002:

Woman in the Dunes

When I was a kid I was fascinated by ant lions. Those are the little bugs that dig pits in the fine, loose sand around the forgotten spots… maybe behind the garage or under the old tree.

They did these perfect conical traps, like a negative volcano, and wait hidden in the bottom ready to snap out with huge pincer jaws and gobble down their unfortunate meal. Dried husks sometimes litter the edges of their lair.

I’d watch an ant or gnat stumble down the slope, slide on the angle of repose, until the ant lion would attack, throwing bits of sand first to confuse and stun, then to grab and eat. I would take a piece of paper or index card and scoop up the sand, the entire area, and blow away the dust until I found the ant lion itself. It was a marvel of tiny death, all jaws and squat, powerful, flicking body.

I would always replace the insect unhurt and watch him begin to construct a new trap, digging the pit by bending and snapping his body – flicking bits of sand away.

I stopped by the video store and rented a Japanese film, Woman in the Dunes. I read the book (by Kobo Abe) decades ago. Actually, I rented the movie once before too, surprised to find in an otherwise pedestrian rental shop. It was a bad copy, though, so bad I could barely make out what was happening.

This time, it has been re-mastered and re-released, clear as a bell. The photography is stunning, incredible black, white, and gray images of sand and human bodies.

It tells the story of a lonely man, wandering the dunes of a forgotten province, looking for insects for his collection. Or maybe, his main purpose is to simply escape the bureaucracy, avoid the avalanche of paperwork, forms, and official stamps that flow across the movie’s credits.

At any rate, he bites off more than he can chew – ends up trapped with a widowed woman in a ramshackle house at the bottom of a wall of sand, trapped, forced to shovel to survive. There is sensuality in the sand, desperation, and resignation.

Do you live to shovel, or shovel to live.”

And today’s flash fiction:

Stay by Sarah Freligh

from Flash Frog

Sarah Freligh homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, The Amber Night by Jack Barker-Clark

“But I can hardly sit still. I keep fidgeting, crossing one leg and then the other. I feel like I could throw off sparks, or break a window–maybe rearrange all the furniture.”

― Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From: New and Selected Stories

Fireworks from Reunion Tower, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, July 4, 1997:

The Fourth and Fireworks

We left the party early, just as the bar-b-que was being trundled out because we had tickets to the Ranger game. It was a great evening; cool weather, a record sellout crowd, and a good game (the home team won seven to six). The only problem was that Lee was a champion wiggleworm; I missed a lot of the game walking him around. He kept trying to kiss some teenage boys in the row in front of us.

After the game was a fireworks display. I knew from years past that the Rangers always put on a good fireworks show, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was a long, loud, impressive display, with the explosions timed to go along with the music played in the ballpark. We watched from the upper level promenade, an open area around the top of the stadium. It was a perfect vantage point.

Nick and Lee had never stuck it out through a fireworks display before. We’d taken them to a couple, but they cried at the noise and we’d had to leave. Now they are bigger, they were nervous before it started, holding their hands over their ears, but once it got going they really thought it was great.

After the game, the fireworks, and the massive traffic jam leaving the ballpark, it was after one when we finally reached home. That is very late for this particular family unit. Yardwork, pool party, baseball, fireworks – about as traditional a holiday as you’ll see. Not very cool , not very punk , not very postmodern . And I don’t care.

And today’s flash fiction:

The Amber Night by Jack Barker-Clark

from No Contact

Jack Barker-Clark Twitter

Jack Barker-Clark homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Poetry is indispensable-if I only knew what for.

—-Jean Cocteau

Music cases and used books… and a bass.

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, July 7, 2001 (exactly 20 years ago):

Half Price Poetry

In keeping with my post-mountain-vacation theme of trying to do some fun big-city stuff I sneaked out last night to go to the monthly First Friday poetry reading at the big main Half-Price book store on Northwest Highway. The crowd was a bit smaller than they were the last time I went, maybe because now it’s summer. I was actually able to get a place to sit.

The poetry, as always, was pretty variable in quality. A lot of it is too traditional, too Moon-June for my tastes. I want to hear something wild, emotional, and witty. Still, though, I enjoy going to the readings.

As a matter of fact – I realize that I can’t even hear most of the poetry. I like to sit there and watch the reader and the crowd – the shuffling of papers, the popping of the microphone, the smell of old books, and the taste of coffee.

One thing I did enjoy was when someone came up and read the from the theme song from “Petticoat Junction.”

Come ride that little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Forget about your cares, it is time to relax at the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!
Lots of curves, you bet, even more when you get to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

….

Well, we’ll soon be leavin’ town
There’s old Charley oilin’ round
Can she make it up the hill
At least to Hooterville
The pressure’s on the rise
Floyd is burning railroad ties
Everybody get inside
Doesn’t cost a cent to ride
Come one and come all and we’ll take that Cannonball to the Junction,
Petticoat Junction!

And today’s flash fiction (poetry):

Halloween Spell by pocketmappoetry

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

“One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls. Wander any graveyard long enough and you will find it – water stained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment. It may be colder than the other gravestones, too, and the name on the stone is all too often impossible to read. If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like fungus itself. If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoul-gate. If the grave wants to make you be somewhere else, that is the ghoul-gate.”

― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Parking Day Main Street Dallas, Texas

From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, August 14, 2000

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Triple digits
deadly coughing air
The full moon is a bloated orange
colored by windblown dust
I haven’t had a decent breath in weeks

The heat cracks the dried clay
cracks the calluses on the bottom of my feet
’til they are bleeding and burn in the morning shower

My gardening – if I did it
would consist of gluing brown desiccated leaves
back onto stickly branches
I finally watered my lawn
it smelled of wet hay

I sweat at work so much
I’ll change lab coats
when it soaks through my shirt and coat
the other day I went through four
When I drove home
I can lick my arm
and taste the layer of salt
I taste like a giant potato chip

And today’s flash fiction:

Lepidoptera by Clio Velentza

from Claw & Blossom

Clio Velentza Twitter