Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction), Trilobite by Bill Chance

“Language is fossil poetry”
Ralph Waldo Emerson



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

Thanks for reading.



One day, decades ago, little Charlie Cook found a fossil shark’s tooth along a rocky road on a family vacation trip. He was mesmerized. He started to collect every book on fossils he could get his hands on – starting with the “Golden Nature Guide” that had 481 Illustrations in color. He devoured these books because that was how he was.

One day he was looking out the window while his parents drove into the country for an antique sale. His eyes grew wide as the car moved through a high road cut. Charlie recognized layers of limestone and shale… and what they would have to contain. He could almost feel the millennia piled up right there.

“Mom? Dad?” he said, “If I can get Reggie and Sherwood to come with me would you drive us out to this road cut and pick us up at the end of the day?”


“To look for fossils.”

“Are you sure that’s safe?”

“We’ll be careful.”

Charlie’s friends did not care about fossils but they were up to any kind of adventure. He misled his parents about what they would be doing; assuring that they would only be looking along the road. Once the car was gone, they started climbing all over the cliff – nimbly picking their way up and over the layers. Charlie had a real rock hammer his uncle gave him for Christmas and he was elated to be using it in the field.

It was one of the best days of Charlie’s life. They climbed, dug, and whacked at the stone with the pick end of the hammer. Their moms had even packed lunches: bologna, mayonnaise, and sheets of fake cheese on white bread with bags of chips and juice boxes.

And they found fossils. Mostly the corrugated cylinders or individual disks of crinoids. These were cool and all over the place. They even found a couple wedge shaped brachiopods. Nothing rare or amazing – but a good haul for a kid. Charlie scrubbed the rocks and lined them up on a shelf in his room – prized possessions.

Over the years, as he grew, Charlie would go looking for fossils. He found a few, more than most, but there was one prey he never caught – a trilobite. He always wanted one – but never found one. It was no big deal. There are remote places where you can go – a flight, a four-wheel-drive-rental, long lonely drive, isolated camping – and you can pay to dig for trilobites. But it never worked out – he never went.

Finally, he broke down in a rock shop and bought a little trilobite in a plastic box. He had one. But he hadn’t found it himself and it never went onto the prized shelf.

Now, twenty years on, Chas Cook was a geologist who, like every other geologist at that time, worked for a hydrocarbon exploration company. He was stuck in a low walled cubicle high in the air among the mirrored glass crystal canyons downtown. Instead of traipsing around in the wild, digging up and looking at the remnants of animals that lived millions of years ago, he was stuck at a desk reviewing reports that the lucky bastards out in the field sent in.

The day was getting long and boring when Chas noticed a commotion along the windows next to the maze of cubicles. There was a buzz with everyone pointing at the street. He walked over to see a huge fountain streaming high in the roadway below. A water main had burst deep under the pavement. Of course, the whole office rushed to the elevators and outside to see the show.

Not long after they clustered together on the sidewalk, the city began turning the pressure off and the giant geyser began to dissipate. All that remained was a decent flow that gurgled up from deep below but never made it into the air.

Everyone else let out a sigh of disappointment and headed back up to the office but Chas noticed that the water was pulling a lot of coarse gravel through the broken asphalt from deep below and spreading it out across the street.

“Urban geology!” he shouted. “I’ll bet there are fossils in there.”

Chas waded out into the water, bent over and began picking through the gravel. It was a cornucopia of ancient critters – Chas supposed that the street was over an ancient rocky beach and the water from the leak was lifting all that good stuff up and delivering it to him.

There were (at least pieces of):








… Then, there it was… right on the street perched and cushioned on a little bed of sand, a small but complete and perfectly preserved Trilobite.

Chas snatched it up and held it high and proud. He looked around at the massive buildings, the traffic, the commuter train going by, the crowds of onlookers, the colossal city itself perched above the  unknown remains of millions of years. He breathed in the exhaust, fumes and smoke and listened to the dense urban cacophony of horns, rumblings and shouts. What an unexpected place for an ancient extinct Trilobite to end up. But it had.

And he had found it.



Rumour Is A Pipe

“Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wavering multitude,
Can play upon it.”

― William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2

Downtown Dallas, Texas

Where do these pipes go to? What do they convey? What comes pouring out of them when they decide it’s time to go to work? What happens if you are on the sidewalk beneath?

Men With a Future and Women With a Past

Downtown Fort Worth, Texas

Twenty Five Oscar Wilde Quotes:

1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.

3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.

4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.

5. The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.

6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.

10. There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

11. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.

12. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.

13. True friends stab you in the front.

14. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

15. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

16. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

17. Genius is born—not paid.

18. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.

19. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?

20. A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.

21. My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.

22. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.

23. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.

24. There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.

25. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.

The Sun the Color Of Pressed Grapes

“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

Painted parking meter and Brooks saddle, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Painted parking meter and Brooks saddle, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

What I learned this week, May 2, 2014

People from the Seersucker Ride at Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

People from the Seersucker Ride at Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

7 Reasons Bikes Are for Everyone—Not Just “Cyclists”

Don’t let the spandex-clad iron men scare you off! Here are seven reasons why all types of people are biking to work—and why cities are encouraging them.

French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

Waiting for a flat to get fixed.

Waiting for a flat to get fixed.

Dallas’ downtown has improved so much over the last few years – it’s become a cool place. It still has a long way to go, and it still has a bad reputation as a giant desert of concrete, steel, and glass. However, the “best” downtown isn’t very far away.

America’s 10 Best Downtowns for 2014, According to Livability

On the other hand….

Paradise lost: The most exciting house in Dallas is gone. A preservationist and a photographer have questions.


I have written before about how beautiful old homes get torn down for awful modern mansions.

4320 Arcady, Highland Park, Texas - a few months ago

4320 Arcady, Highland Park, Texas – a few months ago

4320 Arcady, now

4320 Arcady, now

Global Beat: Alfonso Lovo


10Best: Weird & Interesting Public Art

A familiar buddy from Deep Ellum made the list of weird and interesting public art. Cool.



Forrest Gump by Wes Anderson

Here are the opening credits to the movie Forrest Gump if Wes Anderson had directed it.

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Why It Makes Sense To Bike Without a Helmet

A very interesting article, although I disagree with his conclusion. I am opposed to mandatory helmet laws but I personally (almost) always wear a helmet.

His argument that ten times more head injuries occur in cars is not a valid one – because there are probably a thousand times more miles driven in cars than on bikes. Also, the argument that helmets reduce the cycling rate is valid from a public policy perspective, but not a personal one. Once you are used to wearing one, it is not a detriment. The argument that a helmet increases risky riding – I think it’s the other way around. Cyclists that engage in risky riding (fast, extreme off-road, heavy traffic) tend to wear helmets, not the other way around.

Now, the idea that cars will come closer to a cyclist with a helmet is interesting – but not strong enough for me to offset the 85% reduction in head injuries. Personally, I made the decision to always wear a helmet thirty years ago. At that time, I had a cyclometer on my bike and I was going down a long, steep hill on a light narrow-tired road bike and the reading hit forty-five miles per hour. I realized that a pebble in the road would be a fatal accident. Now that I think about it, I wear a helmet not so much as protection from cars (those will be bad no matter what) but as a protection from simply falling and hitting my head on a curb or something.

Now, the idea of wearing a helmet while driving or riding in a car is an interesting one. That’s something I could support.


Spray Paint

Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”
― Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
― Vincent van Gogh

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

When I was a twelve year old schoolboy I would sit at my little desk and press my fists into my eyes until the most wild and strange patterns would appear against the back of the closed lids. Then I would snap open my eyes. The drab world of the classroom was suddenly bright and life was worth living and the ghosts of the abstract shapes and designs would still be superimposed, for a brief second, over this shimmering simulacrum of reality. It is that moment that I have struggled to paint – every day for the rest of my life. At least.
—-Nestor Fudant, The Ninth Mad Impostor That Understands the Rogue

You Can’t Get There From Here

Though I am a ridiculous old fat man on a bicycle, I have been working on increasing my mileage and exploring how to integrate cycling into my daily activities better. My goal for 2013 is three thousand miles on my bike. I knew I would start out behind (the weather in the winter is too often simply too nasty to ride) but I try to get as many miles in as possible.

Saturday was a gray post-misty day, cool but not cold – usually considered depressing winter weather – but without a breath of wind, perfect for a bicycle ride. I cruised all over Richardson and North Dallas, getting in about thirty-four miles of city riding, which is a lot for me. I was pretty well worn out.

Sunday was more of the same, a little warmer and a little windier and I wanted to ride somewhere and get a few more miles in – somewhere more or less useful.

About eight miles away (as the bike rolls) is White Rock Coffee, one of my favorite independent coffee spots. There are a number of Starbucks within walking distance of my home, and a couple of bubble teas/smoothie emporiums, but White Rock is the closest non-national-chain coffee spot. There is a new branch of The Pearl Cup, under construction in Richardson, and when it is done it will be a nice bicycle destination. But they are still working on it – so until it’s done it’s White Rock Coffee.

The problem is, I can’t find a good route to White Rock Coffee. The biggest choke point is LBJ/635 Interstate Highway loop. The best crossing between my house and the coffee place is the pedestrian bridge next to the Skillman DART station.

The pedestrian bridge over LBJ at the Skillman Dart station - photo from Googlemaps.

The pedestrian bridge over LBJ at the Skillman Dart station – photo from Googlemaps.

Once you start looking at that crossing you realize a nefarious little bit of nasty city planning. The bridge is useful, mostly because it connects a couple of neighborhoods of rundown apartments (on either side of the freeway) with the train station and each other. The problem is that it is almost impossible to get into or out of those neighborhoods on foot or on bicycle.

I don’t think this is an accident. Streets running up to these areas lose their sidewalks – some residential streets are cut and blockaded. It is obvious that the powers-that-be don’t want folks walking out of their rundown apartment complexes into the more upscale areas of housing.

So I have been working on finding the best route. I came up with one and it’s not that great – there are several nasty road crossings (Yale and Walnut, Leisure and Forest,  and Adleta and Skillman are the some of the worst), four places where I have to walk my bike, and some heavy traffic. A long stretch of narrow, crowded residential street with parked cars filling both sides – the door zone fills the whole street. It’s especially tough because I’m riding my road bike right now – I’m rebuilding my commuter/bad weather bike. The narrow tires are pickier about terrain.

I decided to give it a go today – stuffed my laptop and an extra shirt into my backpack and set off. I know eight miles isn’t very far, but it’s a tough eight miles. The backpack was heavy and I was always riding into the wind (how does that work?). It’s all crowded urban stop-and-go riding.

That’s the thing about riding a bicycle in the city – you see things you never do from a car (or on foot, really, because you can’t travel that far). You see beauty, notice hills you never would otherwise, connect with the weather in an intimate, organic way… but you see a lot of nasty, brutish, and ugly stuff too. A lot of trash, homeless people, and neglect.

I hadn’t anticipated the amount of broken glass on the streets and sidewalks in some of these neighborhoods. Sure enough, crossing 635 on the pedestrian bridge I put a sliver of shattered malt liquor bottle through my rear tire and had to patch it in a nasty little parking lot covered in antifreeze and oil that had been dumped there, keeping an eye on the crack dealers that were keeping an eye on me.

Life in the big city in this best of all possible worlds.

I had better finish this up and drink the rest of my coffee and get home – I don’t want to do that ride in the dark.

Mystery Sculpture

While I was riding my commuter bike around downtown Dallas, I stumbled across this piece of welded iron sculpture in back of the office building at 2001 Bryan Street.

I looked around and couldn’t find any type of plaque or label or anything. I have no idea what the sculpture is or who did it or who put it out there in back of that skyscraper.

Still, whatever, I like the thing and am glad I found it. It sort of feels like my own personal secret sculpture, in the middle of the big city.

The Mystery Sculpture, welded iron.

The Mystery Sculpture, welded iron.

The sculpture, with the Eye of Sauron in the background.

The sculpture, with the Eye of Sauron in the background.

My commuter bicycle, leaning up against the mystery sculpture.

My commuter bicycle, leaning up against the mystery sculpture.