Wednesday, November 30, 2005

flea market

Down at the flea market in the snow, all the vendors were selling body parts. I was pleasantly surprised. I'd always wanted a Frankenstein monster of my own. And they were cheap, too! The heads were only a buck and a quarter.

I was a bit curious as to where all the merchandise was coming from, but the vendors were all grey-skinned grumps with intense dirt under their fingernails, so I didn't ask. The things were only slightly rotted; some had been shellacked to keep the freshness in.

I was amazed by the miscellaneous table, where you could get small unexplainable pieces ... two for a quarter. There were bits of brains, limbs, internal stuff, and things that simply defied location. This vendor was proud, communicative, bragging about the Army chopper that crashed in his backyard the week before.

I had plenty of cash, so I stocked up and tried to innovate. I knew that building just a man wasn't good enough for me. I wanted a freaky Hindu god. So I bought mostly blue-skinned parts and lugged them home.

I sewed and wired and charted and stitched and toiled, while the body parts piled into form. At the end I thought I'd be cute and buy him a lotus flower. That must have been my mistake, because at the final stimulus my pet god woke up and started to insult me.

It complained that it had been perfectly happy in Limbo, that its arm was asleep ... all kinds of minor details.

So I bitched in return that I'd spent so damned much pocket money building him.

He tossed me a couple of useless Indian coins and evaporated in a puddle of sparks.

I went back to the flea market, but it wasn't there.

--- end ---

Recorded (audio) on "Protothings" tape. 1988.
Published in Museweek (10/95)
Published in Expressions Newsletter (10/2001)

broken afternoon

broken toys of somewhere afternoon
lost soul freeway under burning moon
downtime party plays a mournful tune
forget the time,
the place reruns
staring into space

you don't have any answers
you don't have endless time
you stagger at the challenge
running the line

frozen tundra people block the way
dreams pass like clouds none can say
the work goes on in shades of gray
forget the place,
reach out for time
count every dime.

what if this has all been a test?
what if we were never here at all?


unpublished poem (1996)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Touch of midnight (audio)

I posted an audio version of my flash fiction "Touch of Midnight".
You can listen to it here.
It is read by Brian Meredith in a classy deep voice. Very creepy.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

puppet hour

when dolls & puppets
wake up roll out
& hit the streets
in paper taxis

when newspapers
scatter & tumble
empty and alone
on sidewalks with no names


unpublished (2002)

stick people

weather the winter
crouched down
over hot coals
in a notebook near you


Published in Expressions newsletter (2003)


mere skipping stones
their splashing
their light and times
so eternal


poem fragment (2002)

Interlude with Nails

Baker Travis is a modern man, who spent his twenties looking for easy money: he answered an ad one day, modeling his body for postage stamps. He showed great promise with dramatic poses, and was soon promoted to the special effects department, which was working on a set of stamps dealing with occupational safety. He was proud to pose for the series, especially the engraving of the man stepping on a nail. The way he describes the project, "Sure it hurts, but I'm a specialist."

So every day he goes to work, takes off his shoes and socks, looks at the nails on the ground, picks the one that he feels would best express the theme, and puts his weight on it. It slides into his flesh, and he screams and sweats, but his assistant holds him up while the artist crawls around with his pencil and notebook and sketches furiously. Every now and then he calls for a mop.

Like so many people, Baker hurts himself for money. All his friends hurt themselves for money, working too long and too hard for too little. They all had back pains and dislocated shoulders, but Baker went one step further.

"The nice thing," he jokes, "is that when I'm fed up working, I can say I stepped on some nails at work, and get worker's comp." He figures he only has to work for a few months out of the year. He has a lovely house, and enjoys his pool, possibly because the cold water helps to numb his wounds.

"That's living, though," he says. "Some people bend over their gardens until they can't stand up straight, some people race cars until they get pulped on a wall. I bleed in my pool. It's a personal thing."

He knows everything in life is temporary, he is no fool. He is always planning ahead. "Next year, I'll get this cool job being smashed on the head with a mallet."

A sensible man, Baker Travis. He chased the American dream of money money money! and came up a winner. He has more cash than he could ever hope to spend. He laughs at the poor, he preaches about opportunity, he keeps his wheelchair clean.

He winks at his audience. "No pain, no gain!"

He's off to the hospital again.


Unpublished flash fiction, written 8/5/91

Baumann's Hands

Under rows of dripping stones and the clap and patter of rain, you seek Baumann's crypt and the wisdom buried with him. Torch raised, you try to keep back the heavy shadows.

Wait! A scrambling sound. Like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

“It can't be true,” you whisper. “The guardian is real?”

His two dead hands, sewn together with catgut and a terrible curse … they slither just out of sight. Then they leap! from the darkest hole in the night. The torch, doused in blood, sputters on the floor.


Published in FlashShot #115 (2003)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

oil cap girl

She had a face like Geddy Lee. Which looks fine on Geddy Lee, but was a bit of a shock when the lady with the long blonde wavy hair turned around and grabbed my filler cap.

That's an oil filler cap. You know, when you change the oil, forget to put it back on, hear it rattling across the road when making a sharp turn, can't find it when you scour the bushes on the way home, then find yourself standing in line at the auto parts store feeling like an idiot. While I was waiting, I saw a big sign near some mopeds about how there is no "rollback period" when buying a motor vehicle, i.e. you can't get your money back just because you change your mind.

Boring. I grabbed some Chex Mix from the impulse-buy rack. The guy in front of me bought a tailpipe about twelve feet long as was now dragging it out the door. I was zoning out, looking at that pretty blonde hair. She turned around, and there we were.

My turn. Just my luck, I didn't have enough cash for the oil cap and the snack, so I asked her to take the snack off the bill.

"Sorry," she said. "There's no rollback period on junk food."

"Well, there oughta be."

"Well, there ain't."

"It's not like I ate it, spit it up and then asked for a refund. It's factory sealed."

"I don't need this trouble. Just put it on a credit card."

"My cards are like vampires, draining me dry."

"Well you have to pay for what you bought."

"But I haven't actually bought it yet."

"Yes you have," she said. She was enjoying this for some reason. And there was nobody on line being bothered by our little spat. Apparently tormenting customers is what she did on her break, to make up for the customers tormenting her between breaks.

"Okay then." I slapped the bag of snacks onto the floor. "Now the ten-second rule oughta apply."

"That's a five-second rule, and I don't think so."


"That rule only applies to hamburgers and candy."

Ever notice how women make up random rules and then stick by them like they were gospel truth? I won't go into that here.

"I have an idea." I let a dramatic pause build, just to be dramatic. "Just ignore it. Some customer will put it back on the rack."

She smiled. "Okay," she said. And with one little electronic blip it was taken care of.

I really wanted to know why that was okay, but didn't want to press my luck. I was saving twenty bucks by buying a Mexican knockoff part instead of the manufacturer part I'd have to special order, and saving all those calories from those yummy little rice squares & peanuts I didn't get to eat. I got to see some silky blonde hair and have a nonsense non-argument with nobody special.

Life is odd.


mostly real life - 11/23/05

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

green eyes

Thursday, May 19, 2005 - Green Eyes

I happen to believe in an afterlife, and I have every right to do so, having seen things which would not have been possible otherwise. Consider the time when my first black cat was struck by a car.

I have always prided myself in the fact that I've had a good cat by my side at all times. My cats were, as a rule, incessantly affectionate stand-up comics with minor weight problems. Black cats have always been my favorite sort, and this taste had earned me no small amount of half-hearted peer criticism over the years. It has been said that I'm a creepy enough fellow without having a familiar constantly skulking around my feet.

The ill-fated creature in question was a lovely twenty-odd pound beast named, of all paradoxical things, Baby. I remember well how she would jump up on my bed at night and curl up in the single most awkward place imagineable at the time: purring, preening and snoring.

When she was killed in the street, I was overcome with a surprising depth of grief. Yet it was an accident, and I could not let it ruin my life, so I took her down to her favorite beach and buried her in a remote spot, then continued my life as if nothing had happened.

The very night she died, however, something most unusual occurred. I found myself awake, even though there seemed no cause for my waking. It was as if some sound had aroused me but was no longer audible, or perhaps the strange, incredibly faint odor in the room has been the waking agent. Baby was curled up against my leg, looking at me as if her sleep had been disturbed as well.

I thought nothing of it until the next morning, when I realized the impossibility of such a thing. Either the dead cat had not been mine, or the living cat was not mine, or the entire ordeal had been a dream. The problem nagged me throughout the day, but when night came she appeared again.

This time I had not yet fallen asleep, I don't think, though such things are notoriously hard to judge. Whatever my mental state at the time, I rubbed her stomach, evoking her trademark roll-and-stretch. There was nothing wrong with her except that I knew she was dead. The odor was there again, weak if not wholly imaginary, but I could make nothing of it until a few more nights had passed. Each night the stench was stronger and the cat less active, as if her vitality was evaporating to create the scent. Eventually I realized that it was the horrible reek of bad meatthat assaulted my nose, and a displeased spectre which shared my bed.

By the ninth evening of these increasingly unpleasant visits, she lay against me uttelry motionless, gazing absently at me with her glazed white eyes. I could not pet her, and I certainly didn't turn on the light for fear that I would find a ragged maggoty corpse curled up against my leg.

My sleep cycles had been shattered by these unsettling events, and I began to feel sick and desperate throughout the day. I knew that something had to be done to rid myself of this odorous nuisance, and my fatigue told me what I had to do.

That night I picked up a shovel and hiked down to the beach. There in a secluded gully, I dug up my companion's mossy remains and dropped them into a plastic shopping bag. I walked all the way back through town with my stiff buredn, avoiding people most earnestly.

Once I got home, I dug a small grave in my backyard under an overcast pinkish sky and deposited the bag and its grisly contents within. I said a few words to the dirt from my heart as I packed it in, then, moving in some mechanical way which suggested sleepwalking, I returned to my bed. Cathartic with the sense of having done right, I proceeded to track down and capture all the sleep I had lost.

Some while later, I woke to the scratchy feel of a cat's tongue on my arm. There were no terrible scents in the air, just a comforting, earthy feeling. I grabbed my overweight, departing friend and played silly cat-games until she faded and could not be touched anymore. The spot of air where she had been purred me to sleep.

She never came to me again after that, and I can't help but think that she had wandered off to find contentment somewhere. Oddly enough, later that same month, an exact duplicate appeared on my doorstep, this one only a few weeks old. The same eyes, the same tail, the same silly habits and personality. The same fate, too, as it turned out, but that's a different story.

-- end --

Published in 1130 Club #4/5 (12/86).
Published in Year of the Twist (6/01).
Posted on (1/02).

dead guy blues

Jon and I were in a basement recording music, and some other people came over and made us go out for a drive. They all got pushed off a cliff somehow, so we went back to our recording.

Unfortunately, they came back, back from the dead, and they wanted to get in on the music. We knew that dead people couldn't sing, so we gave them drumsticks, and found that dead people have no rhythm either. Jon said they were no better when they were alive, and we were running out of Lysol. The jam decayed into the usual discussion of metaphysics.

We asked how it felt to be dead, they said they didn't know. But at least there was a life after death, that was good news. They said, "No, not really. We still have to get up and go to work in the morning."

So we screamed in six-part harmony and recorded it, until our throats broke and the sun came up angrily. There would be no royalties from this episode, no paying the bills, no feeding the Man; there would be only chaos and hypnotic confusion.


Published in "Absinthe" ed by Aurealia Nelson (XLibris, 2002)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

two quick shots

There are probably phones in hell. Everyone wants to make a call, but there are no good jobs, and the long-distance rate runs in the millions. The jobs are all things like Mudsucker, Flamekeeper, Burnt Flesh Collector, Executive Freak-Stabber, etc. The CEO's are all true demons, who jump from company to company filling their minions' heads will nonsensical dreams. The fact is, there is no hope at all; but if the workers knew this, they would stop showing up for work. (Some problems are universal.)


Somewhere there is a world, perhaps named Arraghk. All its creatures are slime. Slithering mucus with no hope of improving themselves. Yet slime naturally settles into layers, and the things in one layer argue over who is superior with the things on the layer below. An eternity of moronic burbling. So when the comet hits and blasts the sewage of their world into oblivion, the sound of molten silence is a considerable improvement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

battle of charlie's field

Rudolph Gram was playing horseshoes when he felt a twinge. Another practitioner was near!

He tracked the man down. It turned out to be his old nemesis, Hans Alvern of Bavaria.

The two sorcerers glared at each other across a Kansas corn field.

“Your foul worship ends here.”

“I do as I will. I am the Key and the Gateway.”

The world wasn’t big enough for these two ancient men.

Their battle lit up the midnight skies. When the dust settled there was a crater a mile wide, and the scent of popcorn stained the town for months to come.


published in FlashShot (2005)

Monday, November 14, 2005

day under punches

For some reason, kids like to punch. I spent the day getting whomped on at a children's party. It was the same bunch of kids as the last few years, but they've gotten older, and hit harder. It's kinda funny at first, whether it's getting hit by plastic balls or stuffed animals or hula hoops. Or little fingers grabbing chunks of hair. But kids get stuck in a loop, where they just keep doing the same thing over and over, long after it's not funny or cute anymore. So, whomp whomp. At one point we tried talking about pets, hoping to calm them down. One of the little girls explained how she liked to whirl her cat around over her head and whack it on the refrigerator. Someday, this person will grow up and some guy is going to marry her. Wow.

You know, if you treat them nicely, our pets just want to curl up next to us and keep us warm. We keep our kids at greater distance. Now we're in a madhouse where they can hit and we can't tap them back, even to get them back on track. Maybe one smack can get them off the Ten Step serial killer program. No. Unthinkable rave.

We can imagine the little punchers someday testing rockets or trying out for olympic events. Maybe stealing cars, who knows? Nature & nurture & all that jazz.

But it would be worse to have all the punch go out of them and find them packing bags at a grocery store, various flavors of little servants lost and used up like canaries in our mad-rush mostly virtual coal mine, little capacitors in our vast machine, losing a little steam every day.


real life?, 11/13/05

Sunday, November 13, 2005

fun with needles

It was an unremarkable day, until the needles came to life. They leaped out of a desk drawer and dug into my arms. I pulled them out and put them away. A few minutes later, they were back -- they dug in and pinned my shirt to my back.

This time they were a bit longer. I was trying to talk to the girl next door, holding the little daggers in my hand. I felt them squirming to get free ... would they hurt her or was I the only victim?

So far, no one else has seen the things in action. They rolled out of my fingers, sailed around the room like a pair of angry metal bees, then stabbed into my pocket with a shocking flare of agony. I let out a shriek, and the girl ran off without a second thought. The damned things wiggled deeper into my thigh. With a groan I yanked them out. It felt like I was uncorking a bottle of wine, except that it was my own blood that burbled out.

I ran out to the kitchen, found an old apple sauce jar, and dropped the gleaming needles inside. I screwed on the lid with precisely the twist that everyone else in the house complained that they couldn't open. The needles started dancing, pounding up and down. I could see them denting the metal lid. I ran down the hall, closed the door, laid a 2-by-4 across the bottom of the door ...

They came crashing through the window, javelins about 2 feet long. I put my arm across my face, and they dug in -- through the flesh and bones of my arm, straight into my eyes ...

(A dream from 2/20/95, unpublished.)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

storm of doubts

once there was a dance, not a motion, not a random mindblank party. there was a meaningful togetherness without all the doubt questions & pain. now an empty car, lights on alone, prowling the streets, faces in beds looking up seeing ceiling -- no stars. one planet, one star, lost without the messages all the others shared. a full dinner, a whole day's work & an empty table. sad eyes & a spark keeping hard secrets. a town of shimmering lights behind a barbed-wire fence. a rock & a tree waiting at a bus stop, trying to get away. a man on a bench afraid of his own memories. every day, a taking away.

i stay sober & watch the wires. never know when a friend might notice me. try to fade away bored, they think i'm mad (angry?), don't come to talk, try to walk, they follow & bend the path. pointing saying "who is he?" & the whispers of attraction. as i sit saying "who am i?" & wait for another chance. something in the air, thinner than cigarette smoke, like indecision, random hopes, try to defy inhibitions without paying the price of confusion. come in, be with me, don't make noise outside so late at night; neighbors are crazy, never know when they will break. a hundred times, then i feel ignored, but continue, don't know who i am anymore. i opened a door, i opened my arms, a place to go, such an important thing, i tried to give it. taken happily, don't know where i stand, my heart is as empty as my wallet. nothing left to give.

patience can never be seen. love is just an echo of a yesterday that never existed. roads are endings, so i try to be funny as i starve. so many failures & incapacities suddenly. open window, cold wind, how does the song go? can't be parties every night, but how can i tell them to leave, afraid they would never come back, or fade to mere echoes, distorted by time. does it matter. we are rocks, islands, but we want to dive into the sea, see other rocks or drown trying; the waves can be brutal, errors smashing us into sand. the air trembles around my voice, imaginary sand, my voice trembles with questions.

the stress of reaching. trying to keep all reactions in balance, all anger left me years ago, yet i can still be hurt. can anyone explain mankind-womankind, some kind of insane molecule. point #1, look at obelisks on hillsides, look at ornaments carved in wood, names of lovers on old trees, humans see the world & feel they must change it somehow. anything to leave a mark. like people filling my mouth with words & not looking in my eyes, seeing a blank wall & buying spray paint, laying in a field & thinking there should be a table there, thinking every mountain needs a road to the top, living a sunset & trying to save it on film, crying at night like there was some way to avoid what we are.

Friday, November 11, 2005

a cut above

reality is one of those moments when you really need a piece of scotch tape & goddammit the roll is empty & you fumble through desk drawers, ransacking your own house looking for any lousy transparent crap that's sticky on one side, but you slice your fingers on some old letter opener instead -- a dopey gift from some ex-girlfriend you never really cared about -- you never noticed it was so friggin sharp before & now you end up stomping down the hall to the bathroom leaving a trail of curses & blood, & you look in the mirror at some psycho with twitchy eyes & you feel another 6-hour standoff with police coming on.

luckily there's a pill for that. it's about the size of a slim jim & only about half as tasty. you tear into it, wolf it down like a berserk savage, then you find a band-aid, some duct tape that's not transparent but it's supposed to be able to fix anything, and some smooth old song from the 70's fills your once-disco brain as you straighten yuor tie, point at the mirror, give yourself your best Matt LeBlanc "how you doin?", have a nice generic brand breakfast & head off to work reborn again and again and again.


By making only the minimum payments on your credit card, it could take 3.6 million years to pay it off, and cost you at least one arm, a kidney, countless gallons of blood plasma, and all your children's children. Sanity will be measured by how high you jump when the phone rings. Do you cry out? Do you hide under your bed? Do you smash the phone with a sledgehammer? Packs of hounds chase you through forests of red and black tape, cash vs anti-cash, trapping you in a deep burrow. You can gnaw on roots and hope they go away, but their patience is infinite, their claws found you years ago and will not let you go. So feel the warm earth and be glad you are more or less "alive".

Future underwhat?

As a writer of sci-fi/fantasy/horror and dream journals, "Future underworlds" is a good summation. Looking forward, looking around, looking under the rocks at the side of the driveway ... and for a subdomain "unfuture" is my disturbed sense that the future is going to be a mess if we don't keep an eye on the chaos and the selfish elements.

Then again, the future is (as far as we can tell) unwritten. So every future we can think of is also an "unfuture", a thing that will never happen (until it does).

That reminds me of a helpful analogy for how we can tell a true infinite value from one that merely takes a long time to count. We're playing billiards now. A countable value is the number of words we hear muttered in the background while playing. An infinite value is touched in those moments when we're setting up a shot. We get glimpses of all the possible ball movements, all the possible outcomes, and we try to choose one that will win the game. A touch of the infinite. And then our hands usually find a way to screw it up. All those shots that never happened, those are "unfutures", forgotten a moment later.

Is it odd that we can almost visualize infinity, or is it natural that we navigate our way through infinities and somehow end up with a simple life, free of obstacles?

Thus the name(s).