Monday, December 27, 2010

Stories in Dark Stone

The grounds around the school are oak-shaded and spare.  

The building is a simple boxy structure of five stories in dark stone with no pleasing aspect. Nor am I pleased to be heading into it.

I am not remembering which the class subject is. I do know I am not fit for it, or, as I prefer, it for me. I know it is something for which I cannot muster the slightest effort for learning, as that describes practically my entire school day.

My jeans are spotted. Something has marred the shins of my jeans. This is only another mark against me. I walk alone, marked as an outsider, without sufficient notice to graduate to full-on rebel.

Realization like an epiphany warms over me. Hey, I really don't need to do this. Always this is salvation for me, who am caught in a conveyer designed by and for strangers. For what's the point? Just to sit bored and embarrassed in order to vex a teacher and encourage classmates that at least they ain't dumb as me.

I don't have to enter that lifeless structure. There is another way. It's along the path around the monolith to the gate and escape. Why didn't I think of this before?

There are stoonts gathered by the front parking lot. I pass at a distance, but I need not worry about notice even were I to walk right through them.

A girl is dancing and chanting a skit.

I know how to groom
I learned it in home room
My heart is a cardigan
Woven on a loom!

My last decision on the campus is to never attend a reunion.

Yet the dark walls follow me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Bare Belly of a Bassett

I have asked the agency to which I belong to change my mailing address to one which seems at least 20 degrees cooler. It is remotely connected to a job I once had and I like the sound of it.

The agency meets outdoors and has no name. I'm not really sure that I'm the only one embarrassed to admit I have forgotten our mission. I'm not even sure we ever had one, but I keep quiet in case we did.

A somber withered one speaks to the group leader. I watch him in profile as he says, "I know why Bowden wants to be associated with this particular address. It's because of his weird belief that canines are susceptible to poison oak. Also, he believes 'carbon dating' is a matchmaker premise that any two organic creatures should be perfectly compatible."

I object. "That last odd belief is from Descartes, not me, and I never met the man. And anybody can find a rash on the bare belly of a Bassett." I might also have countered with a statement challenging the absurdity of either of these statements remotely conflicting with our raison d'etre, which is what smart argue persons often say, but I had no idea what that even meant.

I may've won the point, or lost it, but it wasn't the sort of discussion to give much satisfaction either way, then or now. It was growling at a Poodle in a passing auto.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Number®

It is all quite simple, you see. 

Just as pollsters can with great accuracy predict the victor in national elections, you can devise a strategy to move any product, practice or premise. It is strictly a matter of leveraging prime factors into a sine quotient of current derivatives. If everyone would just go to our website at, you will see it's much simpler than it sounds.

Oprah is very impressed. She gazes sincerely at her audience. "I'm very impressed," she tells us. "It's life-changing." This made the fourth epiphany for Oprah that week, and it was only Thursday.

All you could hear about then was The Number®. Did you know it will help you sell turnips? It made my wealth in sugar futures. I found my husband through The Number®!

It sure did sell a lot of books, anyway. The Number® was numero uno on the NYT Best Seller list for 18 straight weeks.

Then it popped, sudden as a soap bubble. It just went away, with no word about whatever had become of The Number®. Maybe it was the report that the author and entrepreneur had skipped out on a hotel bill after a conference. Maybe sugar futures tanked.

Or maybe it was Oprah again. The problem is missing the point, another guest told her, dripping sincerity. Everyone worries about the mot juste, when the primary agent in communication is The Letter®. Like, have you accepted your RDA in Rs today?

Oprah is thoughtful. "My Asian friends do have trouble wirh that one."

"But we all do!" exclaimed the shill, "Which is why we are as a nation bereft of the thrill of the trill!"

Oprah looks at us. "This is very interesting to me."

If you are very interested in The Number®, there are some copies left in major bookshops. Look on the remainder tables. But hurry. They won't last long - before they're pulped.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


I am a published author. 

I have a story in a local publication. Some read it and are impressed. They either praise me or dismiss me, which is the same. I am quite pleased at this turn of events.

Once somebody would say, if they said anything, "There goes ol' whasshisname. " Now they say, "There goes ol' Whasshisname, the author."

All in all, I think, life is much improved. I have definitely come up in the world. Maybe I should be fitted for a tweed smoking jacket with leather elbows. It's no good pretending everything is the same now.

And then suddenly one early afternoon I stop dead in my tracks. I had been on my way to the local diner to allow them as weren't writers to observe one who was, a rare opportunity for the poor proles.

What stopped me was a contemplation of my method of composition. For the first time, I began to wonder if my private process as a writer might be the talk of the town, as I figured my new tweed jacket would be. All those intimate portraits of the artist alone in his den, in his bath even, once he has been recognized as a genius, such a bother. Is there no privacy at long last once fame comes calling?

My creative work on the published story, for instance, consisted in copying it word for word out of the Atlantic.

Now, really, is this anybody's business? Who really bothers with inspiration? One pretends to channel old George Eliot, that other one studies the bon mots of Balzac in translation, while I see my my own métier somewhat more directly.

I wonder, should I relate this matter to the press? Say, toss it out, like another author might let on she always does a first draft in longhand, or dictates to a secretary while in the bath? My own source
may never be discovered, after all, as many original screenplays are only borrowed from literary classics, on the assurance no one who goes to the movies reads. I doubt anyone who reads me would be familiar with a writer published in the Atlantic, after all.

But it is a puzzler, this moral conundrum. After all, I only want what's right for me, which is the essence of scruples. And I am a most scrupulous person.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Something Turning

It's traffic, said the expert consultant. Economics is. Just like circulation in the body is critical to health, your downtown business district should have an ideal pattern for vehicles to travel. Sounds logical, we say.

You say a recession is nothing but slow or clogged road arteries? Right you are, he said. Okay, we said.


Lem hauled Riley Mae into court, said, Judge, she's encroaching on my east pasture. Done cut muh barbed wire. Well, shoot, says Riley Mae; my land runs as far as Sixth does, the deed says, and now Sixth runs east instead of west.

"That's a fact," mused Judge Moore.

If the Blue Norther was later than Easter, it was given up as a natural by-product of criolisis, which was physics, according to Preacher Friar out at Hopkins Wrecking. It's the same principle as in Dyna-Flow on a Buick; something turning turns something else. Traffic turning one way affects the very air the same way. It's why rush hour in the big city brings tornados.

"Look at the drain in my bath tonight. It don't turn counter-clockwise no more."

"Is that a fact?"

"That's a fact," said the weather girl out at Station KFYN, 1040 on your dial.


Someone was to appear in Nextown with a new idea for a common civic function. He was an expert in doing a public chore much more efficiently. I was delegated to travel from Ourtown to Nextown for his convention, being as all cities are signed on for the chore.

I set up in the motel where the ceremony was to be held and began to copy from the handout the expert's biography. I'll take it back to Ourtown, is my plan, and maybe it would be printed in the Ourtown Newspaper.

We weren't sure what was the new plan, but we knew we were suspicious. The expert came over to my table while I was copying out details about him. I wasn't concerned; I didn't think he would bother with what I had written. Nobody else ever had. Doubt if I could draw notice with a ransom note.

He didn't even know me. He didn't introduce himself.

"Let's go for a drink after the session and talk it over."

I was thinking.

"I don't drink," I said, "and I don't know of any bars in Nextown, but, okay."

"Okay," he said.

Sent from my iPhone

Friday, September 17, 2010

Möbius Phobias

I am to be drafted back into military service, specifically the National Guard, at age 70. It is altogether quite depressing, but there doesn't appear to be anything I can do about it.

Except for passive resistance in the form of my usual torpor. Specifically, I am to report at a certain time Saturday, yet I proceed in believing (or acting along the lines of the belief) that I so not have to report until Sunday.

The span will be two weeks, during which we will have to climb a mountain on foot. I am sure I can accomplish this feat, bit I wonder about the other old ones.

I strangely have my old duffel bag and military gear from forty years ago, and I proceed finally to gather it all. A certain grizzled old vet in a uniform of uncertain vintage insists in flossing my teeth. Despite my protests he stands right up in my face and proceeds with the operation, as if I'm a toddler.

What's past is prologue, they say, about carousels.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Lost in a closet, long ago ...
I dig out of nowhere a small black box.

It's a toy. No, it's a laptop, an ancient model sub-compact, with a tiny keyboard (but much larger than the iPhone I write with now), as if designed for children.

I open it up to see do it still work. It do! She fires right up. On the screen I see numbers at top left. 119. This ancient gadget from before WiFi has downloads at the rate 119 MBS!

It is a wonderfully functional little machine which does all I need it to do, which is bring in data from the world wide Net and ship something back from Tim to time.

But how is it possible?

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Our Founder of Bad Dreams
I am joshing with the investigator. He is looking into a crime which is of a very serious nature but which is of less significance because it's offset somehow, like in a reality show. I want to both gain his good opinion and perhaps distort his findings, because I'm the guilty party. I was convicted of another offense of the same nature this past year, in fact.

Someone is tracking me. He is Turkish; with a traditional beret and goatee. Here he comes. Crossing the street. He makes to impale me with a multi-forked device that hurts not at all but the meaning is obvious. I am a suspect. I accept the guilt, although I do not understand at all the crime.

I report to ER. We must dress in those bare-back hospital gowns. To do this, we are expected to lie down and wallow on the floor, squirming in and out of garb. I see a matron do this calmly, without reservation. It seems the more sensible because everyone else does it automatically.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Old Stations

My ancient vinyl Jazz collection is stacked on a bookshelf, waiting to be translated to the new format. Tapes replaced the LPs for a time, but they're gone now as well.

Movies morphed out of theaters into the den, but now those tapes are gone, also the DVDs which replaced them are rotating into the past in favor of streaming on wires, which will themselves be no more when the wireless universe comes to town.

All the old stations, as Waylon sings to us, are being torn down, and the high-flying trains no longer roll.

I write this, in fact, on a tiny gadget that fits in my pocket and also contains a vast library of literature and music which it will quickly and easily display and play for me. I can visit the Web and handle my email and search Wiki and be directed to any destination out on the road - and I can even talk to family and friends over it. What I want to know is, isn't there a time coming soon to a library near you when the allocation of large chunks of public funds for the purchase of items and storing and staffing of facilities for last millennium's text technology will be considered misappropriation?

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Charity Stampede

Our NGO was a private/public operation in support of military veterans and was supported by taxes. We were very creative one year. We allowed certain unemployed vets to drive our entire fleet of vans used regularly to transport the ailing to the vets hospital. They were commissioned to carry the aged and the infirm to Thanksgiving meals, or wherever else they needed to go. It was very well received, this idea, and we smiled for the photographer from the local paper. That's us, doing good, was the expression.

First, we lost track of the drivers and their vehicles. Nobody was keeping strict accounts of their travels, and now we had no account of any of them. Also, we became aware the credit cards issued to the drivers were not tracked. We did not know how to monitor them. Perhaps we would have to wait until the bills at the end of the month. We really were not a top-notch organization.

The reports in the news informed us the vet drivers had wandered off the reservation considerably. Apparently they were moving bodies to where they needed to be. One story featured a move for an impoverished family back to the old homestead over two states. Another news item featured a nest of runaways in San Francisco who were escorted back to their native habitats. (Running away is thrilling at first until the cold and the ragged hunger and fear set in.) Any number of children were saved this way.

All of the news was positive, only we were expecting that coming from the bank at the end of the month not to be. We fretted, but who wants to rain on a victory parade? Everywhere was smiling on us. We done good. We just could never expect to pay for it. But we didn't let on.

None of our superior authorities cared to mess in our business. What they wanted to do was empower and enable the lost and lonesome and hope trouble never came home to roost. Minorities and the disabled and veterans were all granted roles in the organizations set up for their welfare, for not to do so would imply some sort of ism. So we weren't bothered - like the kid drunk for the first time at a Worlds Fair who jumped from a tall building such as he had never seen before. Folks on the second floor heard him muttering as he dropped by outside, "So far, so good."

We were not, after all, so very different than Wall Street. We were investing heavily with somebody else's treasure and when it all crashed down, well, the public would pick up the pieces. We encouraged one another with that rationale. It was the only one we had.

Meanwhile, nothing was heard from the drivers nor their vehicles except for the various news repoorts. Regular rides to the VA Hospital were suspended. The reports were coming in from farther and farther afield.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Lower Branches

It's another one of those B-movie sets, obscure background in nondescript buildings. A series of rooms. We go into one. We occupy it. We are hired, our team, and we're taking over, but from whom is not part of our indoctrination.

It's a room like the others. We enter, my mentor and I. She is older, sadder, and she says, "You should cut the lower branches on the bushes along the walk." I don't know what we are doing here. I'm the newest member of the team.

I walk. She walks away. I look at the bushes along the walk. It seems such a senseless job. And what will all these others do? Nobody tells. We all just walk into rooms and without even looking around at desks and chairs we walk out again. Is this it?

And then one of the rooms I walk into has her in it. My old mentor. She is sitting now. Looks up, ever so sad. "We're fired," she says. Just like that.