Jellyfish In the Sun

“But how can I put a name to what it is that I want? How am I to know that I really don’t want what I want, or that I really don’t want what I don’t want? These are intangibles that the moment you name them their meaning evaporates like jellyfish in the sun.”
Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker: un film de Andreï Tarkovski

Broken Concrete and Rebar, Dallas, Texas


I took a day of PTO today (I am still working, I am essential) to try and heal my knee which I hurt in a fall outside my shower on Sunday. Someone reminded me of RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (Would like to try RICED – with the addition of Drugs… but no luck there) and that sounded good for me. I made a spot where I could stretch out with a flexible ice pack on my knee. To kill the time I watched a movie on my laptop which I had seen over three decades ago – Stalker by Andre Tarkovsky.

Tarkovsky is, as I’m sure you know, an unmitigated genius – a master of idiosyncratic film making.  I’m glad I saw the film again – I noticed a lot that I missed the first time.

One aspect is the Russian technique of adding very deep philosophical soliloquies spouted by characters in the story – the plot becomes a scaffold to present these musings on faith, desire, and humanity. It is like Dostoevsky or Tolstoy where dramatic action illustrates deeper issues.

Here’s an example – the long monologue by the character known only as Writer after he narrowly escaped death in the room of dunes (you’ll have to click through and watch it on YouTube).

Look at this closely… who is he talking to?

And, like all of Tarkovsky’s films… what images! I hadn’t noticed (or remembered) the Wizard of Oz trick of having the day to day life in black and white (or at least de-saturated sepia tones)   and only have the full luscious color spring out in the Zone itself (when you see the film note carefully what other subject is shown in color). The burning rocks on the shore. The room of dunes. The dust devils on the dried up undulating swamp (apparently this scene and others involved carcinogenic chemical wastelands that may have eventually led to the death of the director and others involved in the film). The catalog of items in the long shot through the shallow water. The stalactite festooned tunnel of horror, the meat grinder. The way he films faces….

It is a feast for the eyes as well as the brain.

Let everything that’s been planned come true. Let them believe. And let them have a laugh at their passions. Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just the friction between their souls and the outside world. And most important, let them believe in themselves. Let them be helpless like children, because weakness is a great thing, and strength is nothing. When a man is just born, he is weak and flexible. When he dies, he is hard and insensitive. When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant. But when it’s dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.

Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 14 – Go-Between

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for 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.

Today’s story, for day Fourteen – Go-Between, by Peter Rock
Read it online here:


So many of the stories I have collected in this month of short story writing are by familiar authors that I have read before. Either classic masters of the form, well-known maniacs trying to stretch what’s been before, or modern acclaimed virtuosos at throwing letters on the page.

That will not do.

I wanted something novel, an author I didn’t know – I need a new drug. So I turned to Google and some literary magazines that are willing to stick an occasional piece on the web for free (I’ll pay for it, but will you?) and struck a vein. Luckily it turned out to be gold and not hemoglobin.

The author is Peter Rock and the story is Go-Between.

I wanted mystery – something that left important (the most important) details to my imagination, I wanted clean prose (a little description is fine, but no rococo showing off), and I wanted some oddly off-kilter excitement.

Go-Between fit the bill perfectly.

It’s a sad commentary on my belated position on the mediocre arc of my nondescript life that I felt more of a kinship with the clumsy besuited disheveled stalker than with the attractive young characters trying to figure out where their skinny-dipping habits are about to take them. It is what it is.

So now I have someone new to read… a freshly-dug rabbit hole to tumble down. I don’t know if everything else he wrote is so attuned to what I’m looking for – but I’ll do the work to find out.

“How’s your grandma’s house?” he said. “Is it creepy, at all, living there?”

“I don’t know. It’s nice having all her old things, I guess, but I keep expecting her to be in the kitchen or come down the hallway. I never had to feed myself, there.”

Two long yellow kayaks slipped past. A lady in a bright red hat, a man with a gray beard. Naomi waved, and the man lifted his oar.

“Have you seen Sonja lately?” Alex said.

“We had breakfast this morning. Is that what you wanted to talk about?”

Off to the right was a tangle of bushes and trees, some of them tipping over into the water. Hidden on the other side of those trees, down the river, was an amusement park. Screams rose up every minute or so, every time the people on the rollercoaster made the big drop, headed into the loop.