Posts tagged: short fiction
Two men were playing chess across the stone patio on the edge of the park while Humphrey skirted the edge, keeping them in sight all the while, to make his way to the bus stop. Humphrey hated chess.
He hated the bleak black and white of it.
No matter what he chose in the game he was either just white trying to stop black or black just trying to stop white. He hated it because it made his head hurt.
Humphrey was tired of the black and white in everything. It had been years since anyone gave any weight to matters. Things had been boiled to either black or white. The way Humphrey’s world worked was that people either had or did not have.
The people who had, made things to do for the people who did not have and the people who did not have did the jobs. People who had got to think and the people who did not have got to work.
Humphrey hated having. Most everyone who had did. He was not even sure what he had. No one told him. He just had to think. Ever since he was a small child he had to just think. He never had to work. He was always fed and kept happy. He just had to think.
Now he was grown up and he was tired of thinking. Every two hours he had to submit reports about what jobs the have not’s should be doing.
It was very boring. But no one was completely unhappy.
The have not’s were especially happy. They had everything they needed, except what the have’s had. And not one had knew what they had. So you can see Humphrey’s anger.
Everything was divided you see. A thin and clear soundproof glass separated Humphrey from the world of the have not’s and vice versa. Both sides could see and wave, but no one had any idea what the other side was doing.
Humphrey was daydreaming on the bus again. Dangerous business. He lived in the northern part of town. On his way home he traveled down a long road out of the city along the soundproof glass. He would just stare out his window at the world of the have not’s and wonder. What were all the jobs he created like? Did they find them interesting?
At home, Humphrey turned on the TV and watched the evening news. The news spoke of the have side of town beginning their annual Fall Festival of Perpetual Light. The candidates for mayor would be there for photo opportunities and free food samples.
There was no more bad news or international news. Local news was all there was.
Humphrey’s mind wandered out the window down the hill in front of his house and he thought the only thought he could never find the answer too. What did have?
The car slowed to a stop right outside of my house and in that moment I saw all of time as if I were living outside the power it possessed over the slowly, or quickly (depending how you look at it) rotating Earth. There was no slow or fast, only black.
A Black Car
The car was black with tinted windows and it had sharp black fins that made it look dated. Despite being a timeless being, style remains an inevitable product of the destructive force of time that I cannot bring myself to see as timeless.
Do you follow?
I exist without time, yet I see that time still has the power to render things unfashionable like bell bottoms every twenty years or the wing tips on cars. It simply cycles in and out.
A man and a woman stepped out of the car. Both were dressed in floral pattern suits. Make that a pant suit for the lady. This is a vivid recollection. When one is without time there is nowhere to be, so details become a new manifestation of passion. The women had her long brown hair tied up into a loose bun and strands of hair fell out in different places. Some over her forehead, some from the top of her scalp; she wore dark rimmed glasses that were very large on her face. From above her eyebrows to her cheekbones, two large ovals consumed her face. Within the ovals two pinpricks of light began to grow. She could have looked young for her age. The floral pattern began to glow. She was walking up my front walkway with the man. She was slender and seemed to be rather tall despite her flat Keds.
The man? He was a nondescript male in his mid to late 30s. I was single at the time of the incident so I did not really pay attention to the man. Yes, I suppose his floral suit was glowing too if I really think about it.
They knocked on the door in unison and I answered it. A wind came rushing in and four glowing eyes shown out of a pitch dark void that consumed the outside world. Pictures were falling off my walls and my bathrobe was swept up in the breeze exposing myself to my guests. I was holding the doorframe just to stay in place.
The visitors spoke slowly and quietly once the wind had died down. Their voices melded together in a symphony of consonant blends that rose and fell in a wandering harmonic phrase. Not unlike a Gregorian chant. Their glowing eyes stayed transfixed on my exposed body and their faces remained expressionless.
I was overcome by en eerie calm. It settled on my head making it suddenly very heavy. Then my shoulders sank and my heavy arms slowly dripped towards the floor. My scalp was dripping off my skull as I slumped into a comfortable lump on the floor.
My floral guests put their hands on me.
Time Slows Internally
A giant rope pulled me up eventually. Being free of time really puts a damper on describing the “when” of things. But I stood up, naked, eventually. The rope was not a real rope, but it was my new companion. It was hooked to my chest where my floral visitors had touched me. It was not pulled taunt and it almost never is, but since it has been attached I have never been free from its slight pull.
We walk through deserts and cities; mountains and islands. Searching for something I never know I will find. Millennium have passed and I still feel my rope pull me gently, with each pull some of it leaves me, slowly unraveling from a wheel inside, slowly cranking up the gears of a clock. A tick tick tocking clock.
Finally the rope unravels and the gears are put into motion on a slow countdown. Like a wind up soldier. I march quickly and with purpose. Diligently.
I find rhythm and time. It is all in symphony. It is all consonant blends arranged and hinging on nouns that I can understand and be understood. I walk in time now. The external and internal clock tick together, only this time their roles have switched.
You see, time ticks internally, but it is created externally. The gears can only spin internally for so long. The external tick tick tocking only exists as long as we can think about it.
Under the weight of defined age, I remember that on Thanksgiving 2011 I saw the black car parked. Wing tips and all. I was eighty as of two days prior. November 22, 2011. 11/22/11 remember that date. It’s important. Slow down the philosophy to focus on the meat and potatoes.
My floral friends were visible through the glass but they would not come out of the car. I was across the street from them waiting for a bus outside of a convenience store when I saw them looking at me. They watched me cross the street, miss my bus, and come right up to their window where I did this: knock knock knock on the glass.
The man shook his head. I guess he wasn’t in the talking mood, plus it was raining. I told myself that. Rain is a big deterrent for many everyday activities that would be embraced in any other weather. Rain for some reason awakens people’s inherent fear of getting wet.
A few minutes passed with me just staring at them through the window. The man shook his head one more time. “No,” he said with his shaking head. His eyes began to glow and the beautiful woman’s did too. I can’t lie, I was still crazy about her in that floral pant suit. The glowing eyes grabbed my chest and tugged gently. They pulled me in and they felt warm. Like they were two long lost friends who still understood me after all these years. Slowly he let the car role forward. Behind the car was a wake, not unlike the wake that follows a boat. It rippled in waves that cascaded across the street and splashed into the curbs. The bumper sticker on the car read, “Follow the Wake.”
In the wake of the car time faded to a dull thumping black and the gears inside slowed to a crawl and later a stop. Naked, I walked behind the car in the bizarre parade down the street. The wake of the car pulled me onward and onward and onward until I no longer had a sense we were moving and the external tick tick tocking stopped.
"So this is how it ends. Another tugging," I said to no one in particular.
"Do you spend all of your time locked away in your room?"
A view from above shows the clouds swirling into the valley below. Overtaking the city and the highrises and the shopping centers. They are gone now.
"So you get out sometimes." She states.
"I wouldn’t say that."
The clouds form a swirling soup. It is quiet here quiet and cool. Crisp. The sun has recently risen. It is bathing the hillside in golden light. I can see my breath hang in the air, but I am not cold I am bundled up. It is so quiet up here. There is nothing. The leaves have fallen and the trees are baresticks below me.
"Have you been going to work?"
"I missed a couple days last week."
"Are you trying to keep yourself distant?"
The trail forks ahead. There is a sign. One reads “Ridge Trail,” the other has fallen off.
"You haven’t moved from this apartment in weeks. Your neighbors say they never see you."
"You know my neighbors?"
I hear some distant voices up ahead. I follow the path further upward. It twists into switchbacks that steeply climb the face of the hill. The sun is higher now. I think a couple of hours have passed, but it could have just been a matter of minutes. The sun moves in decieving ways at this time of year.
"We’re worried about you. Where are you right now?"
The voices are still distant. They are also walking uphill. I’ll see them at the top. I’m sure of it. I’m grateful to have some people to share the morning with. It is so beautiful up here.
"Do you want me to make you something to eat?"
"That’s ok. I’m not hungry."
The trees clear into a climbing rock face. They are big, bald boulders coming to a peak. The voices are at the top and I can start to make out what they are saying, “Beautiful” one says.
"I have to get to work. Take care of yourself. Want to come out tomorrow night?" She is starting to get up and put her coat on. The slow exit.
The top of the mountain is empty there is no one in sight. The clouds below have cleared by now as the sun burned them away. The city is a deep, scar running through the valley, traveling from North to South and sprawling up into the hills to the west.
Amos spent most of his Tuesday afternoon sniffing around the garbage that laid splayed out on the corner of the street. Some of it was singed and smoking. The streets were empty and the houses were all closed up. Shades drawn, doors closed, gates locked. Amos was alone.
Watching the garbage smolder, Amos began to think of his home. His warm house and that feeling he had when he was young returning from a day out to his comfortable place in the yard. He would sit and let his mind fashion his future. He would let his eyes relax and go out of focus on the ground and he would imagine kingdoms. Amos would imagine castles and fortresses, towers and palaces. Amos was king.
Through his out of focus eyes he watched his kingdom being built. His legs would begin to kick trying to wake him up. “Don’t sleep,” a voice whispered from somewhere in his legs.
And Amos was awake. Next to Amos lay the remains of an elephant. It was his elephant graveyard. The only one every visited. The only one ever seen. Amos sniffed the bones and licked some of the dried hide that stretched over the pelvis of the bones next to him.
Then he was gone.
A thin cord was pulling Amos. He let it pull him. It pulled him into the darkness. Into the pressure. His ears were popping and his chest felt tight. The cord tugged him gently. He let himself go.
Amos was running through the wheat fields and he was being chased. A young boy caught up to him and put a lease on him.
"Amos" his collar said. He slowed to a stop and looked up at the boy.
"I’m ready to go now." Amos said quietly. It was freedom and the string pulled him and he was gone. First one step. Then two. Amos looked back and the boy watched.
The boy unhooked the leash and Amos was gone.
Today I got a tattoo of two elephants walking together into a sunset.
Just beyond the reach of the taller one’s trunk is a small mouse. The mouse stands upright on his two feet on the ground in the path of the elephants. He looks brave and self assured and over-masculated if that is possible. He stands with his enormous testicles dangling in front of the elephants. He closes his eyes and holds up his paw to stop the elephants in their tracks. A gypsy looks on from the bushes. Her small camp illuminated by her lantern. He begins to sing:
In the moon light, by the riverside.
Where the elephants go to die.
Where their bones are scattered and their hides lay dry.
Where the vultures tear the flesh from their bones.
No one can know where the elephants die.
The mouse sings as loud as he can, but he is so small and he is not heard by a falcon swooping in overhead. One talon spread. In the other talon he grips a Canadian flag. The red maple leaf just visible in the folds. He is also sneering with a cigar stuck in his mouth.
He also wears the hat of the mountain police.
High in the sky, a moon begins to rise. Shimmering over the river that meanders behind the elephants. The moon is laughing but crying at the same time. It looks like he is laughing so hard that he is crying, but in reality he was crying so hard he began to laugh.
An army tank rolls over a mink on the opposite riverbank and a Sergeant bears his teeth cackling: Huk, huk huk.
A homeless man lies beneath the bosom of the gypsy licking his chops and the gypsy returns a hungry smile while counting her money. She counts in a world full of both sound and fury in the end signifying nothing. This she says through Macbeth who dotes behind her carrying his pride in the form of a lion who licks from a saucer suspended from a string attached to a flying saucer.
Finally two men beat a drum. The falcon has that exasperated look like he has had to stay still too long while people raped him with their eyes for meaning. The two men pound the gigantic kettledrums, each standing on the shoulders of the elephants. They are outraged and directionless. They each carry a manifesto in their pockets. The Mommy Manifesto. It is written by their parents. Inside, it tells them how to work an iron, start the stove, pay for loans etc.
Two Greco-Roman columns border the tattoo and inscribed on the bottom of one of them is, “novus ordo seclorum” and on the other is inscribed, “11/22/88.”
Walking in step with the elephants is Taz.
I just really like Taz.
Today marked a milestone in Leo’s week. He decided that Nantucket wasn’t his cup of tea. Not his cup o’ tea; cup of tea. There it was full of the tourist that created it. The Mayflower strolling through the streets making it rich and snooty and full of intrigue to the point where a shirt could state the entire being of a place. “This is Nantucket,” said Nantucket from the front of a Nantucket shirt.
Leo was sick of it. For the first time in his life his boat shoes felt heavy and his feet felt full of blisters. They burned to walk.
The dogs grew so numerous. It was as if he could not walk without having to say excuse me to a golden retriever wearing a kerchief. Saying “How do you do, Mr. Human you?” and sniffing on and on and on etc.
The boats on their moorings collecting barnacles.
Barn-knuckles. Waiting until evening to go around the breakers and back with a bottle of wine and some friends from the cottage next door.
"This is Nantucket," said Nantucket from underneath a picture of a kite above a bike shop called Cycle-tucket. Ride me.
Leo felt his collar start to dip. His nephew milling about with those douche-y sunglasses and rolled up Khakis. Arms around two girls he was taking to Leo’s boat without Leo’s permission with Leo’s beer. They were keeping up the Nantucket in Nantucket Leo thought.
They came to Nantucket to get away from it all, to meet it all in a different form. It was all very comfortable. The pink oxford comfort of convenience.
Leo bought it when he thought of the word convenience. He got sweaty. A couple argued in silence over a menu. When he looked down it was a water bottle that said “Nantucket!” from the word Nantucket on the front. Well, it was round, Leo thought again, is there really a front?
The street stopped moving and the people stared.
Did Leo think that out loud? Leo thought.
Write me your life story and don’t leave anything out. Please don’t. This will be the beginning of my autobiography starting now. No detail left out of the bigger picture. It may all as well be fiction, you be the judge.
It begins as all lives begin in the womb. I am born. A crying baby breathes the same air as Shakespeare, Lincoln and Darwin (the latter two coincidently breathed life on the same day, one was our most hated in-office President and one showed us that birds could whistle prettier a few islands down). On my first day of life I saw pink. On my second day of life I saw the whole spectrum. On the third day I saw a city burning.
Not literally. It was shown to me by two men in black ties, white shirts, and name tags. I couldn’t read yet so lets call them J. Alfred and the Angel of Death. Dramatic, but it gave you some vivid images right?
Into the picture I went.
A wild place of crumbling buildings. A world beyond man, beyond animal. Only trees. Sitting on a log the world grew quiet. Imagine only the breeze. Nothing else. High pressure to low pressure moving through leaves. This is my world.
All encompassing. A silence so rich it makes your ears feel like they are filled with cement. All around me the trees shook in a silent tremble. I was looking down into a green valley that grew around the ruins of the city. The sky was blue.
Three clouds traveled from the left to the right. Slowly drifting away from each other. The first gaining speed while the other two lagged behind keeping him back.
"Wait up!" I yelled for the two clouds in the back.
I walked along the ridge high over the valley for some time. The trees seemed to part making me a perfect trail atop the ridge. I climbed up an enormous boulder that sat on top of the ridge, forming the highest point. From there I was above the trees themselves and they bowed. They bowed under the wind and they bowed below me. In the distance the clouds gathered and threatened thunder and lightning on my parade.
We faced off. I blinked and hiked on.
An abandoned Ford pick-up truck sat in my trail. The plants grew behind the seats, in the stick shift, through the holes in the rusting truck bed. It too was quiet. I stepped onto the bed and climbed into the cab just to hear the groaning squeak of it’s old rusted suspension.
Inside the cab I sat behind the wheel and vibrated my lips to make the engine sound and I grew up. I left the rusted cab and looked at the forest twenty years later.
I hiked on. The trail began to descend and I found myself walking into an open pasture of tall green grass strewn with wild flowers. That familiar breeze rocked them downward as if they were trying to jump out and roll down the hill.
"Death is in the valley," said the wild flowers, thick, like cement in my ears. "Death is in the valley."
Jerry witnessed two lights, then three, then four before they disappeared into what appeared to be his blind spot. Did he have one he thought to himself? In the woods, so far from light on the bank of a lake, so many stars start to look fuzzy. Had he seen them?
Pull back. Jerry could see the shapes. They had been slowly moving into their place since the beginning of time.
The beginning of time. Imagine that for a minute. A rapid expansion. We are watching visible time. Time. Rotating then orbiting, then drifting slowly, slowly ever so slowly away from a center in endless space.
Are there many centers?
The lights came up again. One, two, three, four, five Jerry noted. Scribble scribble in his notebook. Bigger now. Note that too.
The stars became a fuzzy mass again. Light shifting. Moving away and moving toward.
Just an endless rhythm. Jerry started to keep time bouncing his head on his shoulders and hunching up and down. He was going in a circle. The rhythm of time he thought. Magnificent.
The fire had been dead for some hours now. Onetwothreefourfivesixseven…closer now. Jerry was in sync now he could feel it. He felt lighter.
Take me now Jerry thought.
The weight of the moon began to move Jerry’s circle in a more oblong pattern. He was moving with the tides. This is how life began. With the tides.
Did you put that up there? Jerry asked the lights.
I’m vibrating Jerry thought. Every part of me. Scribble scribble. TEN! Right above his head. Large bright lights started to circle. They pulsated. Jerry started to count the pulses. One two one two one two…
If a man disappears in Maine and no one knew he existed was he ever here?
Snow in April. That is how this all began.
Two birds who were ready to begin mating stood on top of a mound of the white stuff. Shit they thought. This really kills the mood.
Snow in April began to cover the cars. Snow in April began to cover our finally visible lawn. Snow in April began to cover the rooftops. My neighbor’s black dog walked through the white backdrop as if it were no different than the green that was under his paws a day before.
The snow arrived with the time traveling dog Amos. Two years ago he was running through the open plains of South Dakota looking for a place to take a piss and now he was here.
Together in the snow we stared at one another. We took our time and slowly got to know our surroundings. The fence, the ocean, the sun, the Pintos, the skateboards, the neon colors. 1986. Miami. This is where we were. I continued to look at my strange companion and continued to look back. The blue ocean consumed, surrounded us, the water lightened, the city gave way to the sound of birds chirping and exotic whistles and growls began to fill our senses. Galapagos. 1928. The stone bridges, the sound of a car every now and then passing in the distance, mostly old growth forest surrounded us. Rural, southern New Hampshire. 1995. Here we were together looking at the same old slate grave stone I see myself looking at. I am seven years old. I am playing with a stick at my feet.
I whack the slate. The stick makes that whoosh sound before the whack. My father, mother, and sister come up the trail. The sun is beginning to set.
"Oh, an old grave yard." My father says. "Anyone famous?"My family continues down the trail.
Amos and I stand in the snow covered driveway. Then I stand in the snow covered driveway.
Snow in April continued to cover the cars. Snow in April continued to cover the green grass. Snow in April continued to cover the rooftops. The black dog watched two birds sit on a branch.
Her soon to be mate leaned in and picked her feathers clean.”Well, I guess it is kind of hot if that dog keeps watching.” She said.
Snow in April marked the beginning of Spring.
The pursuit of happiness is a way to try and beat the clock. The endless tick tick tick that keeps the gravity pulling us further and further toward the ground until someone buries us in it.
Or there’s work. Endless work to beat the tick tick tick that keeps the gravity pulling us further and further toward the ground until someone buries us in it.
This is what Lewis was mulling on the day his dog was put to sleep and later on the day that he buried his grandfather and later on the day that he was arranged to be buried. I know because I watched. I know because he told me. We’re friends you know.
Friends til’ the end.
I watched his tick tick tocking clock stop at the end of his road. He sat in his rocking chair and watched the sprinkler in his front lawn go back and forth, back and forth in that rainbow arch that sends water to the left, higher and higher until it reaches it’s apex and it must just fall down on itself before falling to the right. One of those mysteries I suppose.
He slumped and slept.
Whew. Blow out that candle!
Thump Thump Thump done. He slumped in the chair next to me. Afternoons on the ranch. He had to take his golf cart over again. Too tired he said. Tired from work? I asked. Play tired I thought.
Jeremiah had a kingsize bed. A double XL male with a bum heart. I wish he would have died in his bed not on my rocking chair.
Do we float float float or fall fall fall or nothing nothing nothing at all. That’s the question I have for these too old fools. Down to the wire sitting in rocking wood on porch cleaned and groomed from our neighbors downstairs. Could they have timed it any better?
I wonder if they shoebox their money as a reminder.
One depression shame on you. One recession shame on me. Their pants are as dry as the dustbowl, well not anymore, they smell ripe now.
At least it was peaceful and unexpected. When I go I hope to hop off the train the same way. Not knowing it was my stop.
Sadly all I can think now is “re-sale value.”
This past April, I had a short story published in an online literary magazine called Danse Macabre. It is a weird magazine, but I am glad to have been published.
Here is a link to the work. Enjoy it!
Have you ever heard of a cargo cult?
They sprang up all right. In the wake of WWII they sprang up. In order to move goods to allied troops in the eastern theater bases were established on the remote pacific islands. The remotest to be exact. Places so isolated it was like viewing ourselves in the past. Standing in the present, looking back. People frozen. Freeze and listen.
Soldiers made airstrips. Soldiers brought food. Roast beef, canned goods, medicine. They were gods. They descended in their airships and they came up on their boats. They spoke in strange languages and they used strange machines.
When the war ended, the soldiers left and the natives were left to wonder. They built shrines, they constructed fake airplanes and airstrips. They made statues. But the soldiers never came back.
Except Rudy. Rudy came back.
Rudy came back on November 22, 1988. He had just divorced his wife of thirty years and he was in need of some clarity. He was a broken man you know. That’s when he remembered that island he was on in the South Pacific. As an ex-pilot, Rudy knew how to get that. In fact he had been dying for years to get back there.
So he went.
On the morning of November 22, 1988 Rudy landed his plane on an airstrip on his island. The airforce called the island FDR. As FDR exited his plane he was greeted by a man wearing his old service uniform that proudly bore Rudy over his left breast.
Behind him was a small group of five people. Three women a boy in an army helmet and another man. They held spears and they wore elaborate head bands.
Rudy found a new wife. In later years he would attack France and lose. The maps were old and the information was patchy.
Let me begin at the end of college. Here it is. A new blog for a new beginning; or at least a continuation. The real beginning was the floating stuff. The floating stuff that stuck together and grew and grew and grew.
My beginning was floating stuff that grew and grew and grew and in every way possible we all started as floating stuff that grew and grew and grew.
So I started a new blog. It is in our vocabulary now and I hope blog sticks around so that this can age classically and still be accessible rather than become obsolete with vocabulary from a very specific time period. When we go so will the memory of what a blog was, perhaps.
The way of the dinosaur as some would say.
So that is the fear, right? The fear of becoming obsolete. I have this fear as does every other aging collection of floating stuff walking on this Earth does. That is why we have to chart each four years of our lives as “new beginnings” so that we do not feel obsolete, simply rearranged and regrown.
So I finished college. I walked. It’s finished. So where does that leave me? Obsolete to college but new to the world of the twenty-somethings. So yes, I will use the term blog taking the chance that is will not become obsolete like referencing eight tracks, or cassettes has become.