Short Story Of the Day, The Wave by Bill Chance

“Can’t we haul them up with us somehow?” the youngest asked.

“Llamas can’t climb trees,” the old man replied.

—-Bill Chance, The Wave

The Wave that Washes us all

The Wave that Washes us all

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 (#18). 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 Wave

They pushed the llamas faster than they wanted to go but they knew they had to reach the tree. The bare brown ground was covered in a spiderweb of cracks for miles and miles and miles – from one horizon to another. The rise that had the tree on top of it was barely perceptible but the old man could feel it in his bones, having made the crossing so many times before.  Finally, the great tree appeared on the horizon and they knew they were going to make it.

They removed the packets of salt and sulfur from the backs of the llamas and hauled them up into the tree. The llamas were then let free to wander – to tie them would mean certain death. As it was, they would be lucky if half survived the wave… llamas can’t climb trees.

“Can’t we haul them up with us somehow?” the youngest asked.

“Llamas can’t climb trees,” the old man replied.

“But they can swim,” the youngest said.

“To a point.”

They climbed and tied themselves to branches and slept as best they could.

The wave came not as a wall of water at first but as a swelling of the ground until the cracks all closed up. Then the water began to deepen. Then there was the sound and the wave and the water. The cries of the llamas were pitiful as they were lifted and tumbled and struggled to keep their heads above water.

And then it was over. The water receded back over the horizon as quickly as it had come.  The sun baked the ground until the cracks reappeared. The old men lowered the packs of salt and sulfur from the tree as the young men gathered the surviving llamas up across the plain.

There were enough to continue, although for each of them, their loads would be heavier.

Everything That Was Not Death

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
― Jack London, The Call of the Wild

A tree fell in a bad spot, downtown Dallas, Texas

I saw this waiting for the streetcar to Bishop Arts district. What really sucks is that tree didn’t fall by accident, it looked like it was cut down (though it was dead and probably going to fall anyway). I guess once it fell on the meter, they were scared to move it. Somebody is not very happy.

A Forest Wilderness

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir

Bald Cypress stump, Downtown Dallas, Texas

Like all big evil cities – Dallas, in an attempt to add a little more “green” scatters trees along it downtown acres of concrete – mostly bald cypress – poking out from metal grates set in the sidewalks. But a city center is not a lush swamp – where the cypress feel at home – and they will eventually fail. Hopefully, this happens because the tree outgrows the little metal hole it is cursed to live in. The men will come along and break out pieces of the grate – but eventually the tree grows too big and has to be cut down.

I have mixed feelings about this. The trees do make the city more liveable. And you can’t really mourn a tree – it is only a plant. And the stumps do have an interesting look – sort of a mini-history of man’s failure to corral nature.

A nearby tree still growing, but doomed to be cut down soon.

Die of a Sort of Creeping Common Sense

“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Sculpture, Tree welded from cable, DCCCD Bill J. Priest Institute for Economic Development, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Honor thy error as a hidden intention

After a long day of not getting much done I found myself bereft of ideas. My computer has thousands of text files that I have typed up to remember things, going back twenty years, and I decided to peruse them and see if I could find something useful.

I came across this quote about a Chekhov short story by one of my favorite writers, Tobias Wolff:

There’s a wonderful story of his about a soldier who’s returning from Manchuria, dying on a troop ship, but too ignorant to realize he’s dying. He was a brute, and that comes through, but he also has a very tender side. So he dies, in this state of longing and unredeemed ignorance, and most stories would end there. But Chekhov has the burial at sea, and then he follows the body, the weighted body going down and down and down. And a shark comes up, and nudges it, and swims away. And then he moves the vision back up to the sea and the sky where just at that moment the sun is breaking through the clouds and he talks about the light dancing on the water — and I’m trying to get this right — with a sort of joy for which there is no word in the language of men. So you get this tragic thing, this man dying in complete ignorance, a man with all the goodness in his heart that was never realized, so you have that incredible focus on the individual. And then suddenly he opens it up so we can see where we fit into this and how small it is. It doesn’t diminish your feeling for the character, but it gives you a sense of the finitude of our duration here and our problems. He’s an amazing writer. I love Chekhov. I could go on all day about him.

What an amazing story review. I, too, love Chekhov, but I doubt that the story will be as good as this review.

I don’t know, maybe it’s better. A quick Google search and I found the name of the story is Gusev.

It’s readily available online. Here’s one translation:

Gusev by Anton Chekhov, translated by Constance Garnett

I’m going off to read it now – I suggest you do likewise.

The Mean Reds

“You know the days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds. You mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?”
― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

streak1

“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

streak2

Streaks from Tree Mural by Eric Mancini.

As the Grass Grows On the Weirs

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.”
― W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems

Crepe Myrtle trunk in the snow

Crepe Myrtle trunk in the snow