Category Archives: Short Stories

Night Time #1

The magician is in the tower about the village.  His black silhouette moves against the dark blue sky, not in time with this world–like a projector being run too slowly.  His hands trace arcane figures in the air and light bursts from them.  Children gather beneath the tower and watch, mouths agape.  Parents stand behind them with a knowing smile on their faces.  They see the path before their children, the day in the distance when they will know these are the parlour tricks of an eccentric, when they will forget magic.  The children see the path before their parents, the day in the distance when they will remember it.

 

An old city.  Or the dream of an old city.  Stone roads and buildings repeating themselves in all directions.  Illuminated by the full moon everything is bathed in silver–bright though without colour.  Stark against the starlit sky, it feels as though the city is floating in outer space.  In a recess three men wearing cloaks huddle around a candle.  One by one they hold their fingers to the flame, burning their callouses off.  They are the city’s musicians–guitarists–scoring this endless night in this endless city.  You ask them why they are doing what they are doing.  “So it hurts again” they say.

 

I see two buses moving towards eachother along a route, a long straight road through a residential neighborhood.  Night.  Foggy.  Like being underwater.  The drivers can only see as far as their headlights allow them.  I see a line through blackness, two dots traveling along it, bringing the world around them into existence.  A lonely night.  The people in the houses are asleep, their pets are asleep, their refrigerators hum.  The buses drive on.  Suddenly they see life ahead, light.  The other bus.  They pass.  For a moment instead of two small worlds a single large one comes to be.  They nod and drive on, comforted, continuing to bring darkness to light.


The Cabin

It began two weeks ago in a field opposite my home.  The field has a few trees, wonderful green grass and gentle sloping hills.  I cross it everyday.

Then it appeared.

At first it was a black square where there had been only grass for as long as I could remember.  Its edges were long enough for two men to lie along, flat and framing an empty patch of earth.  I didn’t pay it much attention, but I kept my distance.

The next day it had grown and was one foot off of the ground–two the next.  I waited, far away, until it got dark the second day to see the builder.  No one came.  It was three feet off of the ground when it was light.

Each morning as I awoke and looked out at the field I could see it.  Sinister and perverse.  Ominous and somehow sentient–aware that it was out of place and not bothered.  I realized that it was becoming a cabin.

My path home got closer and closer to it each day until, a week after it had first appeared, I found myself next to it.  Its walls were dark, but not suggestive of an emptiness like the sky; it was closer to charcoal–dirty and cold.  An unholy blend of ancient coal-blackened machinery smelling of archaic otherworldliness, and primal savage rock that had once been buried under the Earth.  It was horrifying.

I went to see it on the way home each day after that, staying longer every time.  A few days ago its windows began to glow with a fire from the inside, but it wasn’t warm.  The sickening walls made the fire seem evil–not the giver of life but the destroyer.

It was finished yesterday, I know because there were no changes this morning.  I’m going inside tonight.  I don’t think I will be back for some time.


The Forests (Separated)

I figured I would put this up again but with the stories separated. I did play around with different colours but it was hard to get a combination that was easy to read. So here it is with them separated. Please give the original one a shot first though!

I unfortunately found myself lost in the woods, walking along a path made many years ago. The sun had long since set and a small moon, offering little light, had taken its place. What light it did provide was filtered by a mass of branches, leaves and trunks. Shadows swirled around me, taking forms for a moment before receding back into harmlessness. I pressed on. Ahead the road split in two and neither path seemed more hospitable than the other, I chose the right. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and it seemed to approve of my decision.

I walked for some time, only having the sound of my own footsteps to keep me company. The forest seemed to relax its stranglehold on the night sky, occasionally even allowing a few stars to peak through its clutches. I walked on. After some eventless minutes or perhaps even hours, the dread that had hung over me subsided. In time it passed altogether. I began to notice how pleasant the night air and the sounds of the forest were. Leaves rustling in the wind seemed to provide an ever-present hum. It was as though the forest was meditating on some whispered mantra; it exuded a calmness that I could feel soaking into my being. I reflected on the fact that my footsteps were blending with the other things I heard and becoming part of the forest’s sounds. I felt a oneness with nature that I’d often heard about but never experienced. Somehow being lost in nature served to dissolve the connections I had to the world outside of it. That world began to seem like a profane mockery of the existence all around me. I was no longer lost in enemy territory; I was in a being that had given birth to me. Stopping and standing still, I closed my eyes and tilted my head towards the sky. The forest’s “om” continued. On top of it came a symphony of sounds: wings fluttering behind me, a small animal chirping, a twig snapping to my left… all part of the sphere that I now felt at one with. I imagined my feet reaching deep into the Earth, and myself springing up from the same source that had produced the trees and the animals. I was no different than them, but rather the same spirit clothed in a different costume. After some time I continued along the path.

With my mind lost in the welcoming eternity surrounding me, it was some time before I noticed a gap in the trees ahead: an exit. Even after I did, it seemed so foreign and out of place that at first I didn’t realize what it was. Slowly it dawned on me and when it did the hazy plateau I’d been standing on seemed to sink sheepishly back into the ground. I stopped walking; my parents had just called me for dinner. It felt like the last few moments of a dream, when waking life seeps in and coldly does away with the fantastic creatures, buildings and scenery. Somehow I knew that what I’d felt in here would be dissolved by the unforgiving reality out there. I stared at the mouth that was about to swallow me whole. Or perhaps it was the reverse and I was about to be released from something. Grudgingly I walked on and as I did, doubt wrapped its warm and cynical hands around me. I started to write off my experience as the product of a tired and panicked mind. The closer I came to the edge of the forest the more ridiculous it all seemed, almost embarrassingly so. Light had been shone into my secret hiding place; the shadow puppets had became worn out socks. I took my last few steps out of the forest and back into the world.

I unfortunately found myself deep in the woods, walking along a path made many years ago. The sun had long since set and a small moon, offering little light, had taken its place. Shadows swirled around me, taking forms for a moment before sinking back into harmlessness. I pressed on. Ahead the road split in two and neither path seemed hospitable, I chose the left. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and it seemed to disapprove of my decision.

I walked for some time; the forest appeared to grow darker and more sinister. On two occasions I stopped, believing to hear footsteps in the woods, only to be taunted with silence when I did. An echo, I told myself. Whether I traveled for minutes or hours, I couldn’t tell. I hated these woods, and I hated myself for being lost in them. My mind was immersed in thoughts of self-pity and anger when suddenly a shape moved across the road ahead. I froze and felt the blood in my body turn to ice. Squinting into the trees I searched for the shape that I was convinced meant to harm me. Nothing. My whole body buzzed with the anticipation of danger, it mixed with the darkness around me and formed a threat so great that I resigned myself to some grisly and unavoidable death. I stood like that for some time, frozen in place but feeling like everything inside of me was moving very quickly. I decided to go back to the fork, and take the other path.

Walking quickly I went back the way I came, looking over my shoulder every few steps. I expected to see a pair of eyes without sanity or feel breath without warmth at any moment. Stories I’d heard of ghosts and demons came flooding into my mind and took shape in the shadows all around me. I was running now and in a state of frenzy. Looking back then looking ahead, looking back then looking ahead. Everything started to seem the same; the darkness was closing in on me. I realized that I must have missed the fork. I kept going. To move was to remain safe and to stay still was surely to die. Movement ahead. I stopped. Squinted. Nothing. Quick agitated breathing. My own? No, beside me. I looked in horror. Nothing. Footsteps behind me. Spun around. A shape. Pain. The darkness became absolute.

I unfortunately found myself deep in the woods, walking along a path made many years ago. The sun had long since set and a small moon, offering little light, had taken its place. Shadows swirled around me, taking forms for a moment before sinking back into harmlessness. I pressed on. Ahead the road split in two and neither path seemed hospitable, I chose the left. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and it seemed to disapprove of my decision.

I walked for some time; the forest appeared to grow darker and more sinister. On two occasions I stopped, believing to hear footsteps in the woods, only to be taunted with silence when I did. An echo, I told myself. Whether I traveled for minutes or hours, I couldn’t tell. I hated these woods, and I hated myself for being lost in them. My mind was immersed in thoughts of self-pity and anger when suddenly a shape moved across the road ahead. I froze and felt the blood in my body turn to ice. Squinting into the trees I searched for the shape that I was convinced meant to harm me. Nothing. My whole body buzzed with the anticipation of danger, it mixed with the darkness around me and formed a threat so great that I resigned myself to some grisly and unavoidable death. I stood like that for some time, frozen in place but feeling like everything inside of me was moving very quickly. I decided to continue, mustering every bit of courage I could gather.

Starting off slowly at first, I moved forward. Soon I reached the point in the road that I’d judged the shadow to have crossed. I braced myself. After a few minutes without any harm befalling me I began to relax. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, my muscles eased and I began taking breaths that filled my lungs. A twig snapped in the forest to my right. I took off like a canon shot, running faster than I’d ever run before. The cool air made my eyes water and my throat burn but I kept going. The unknown evil took on every possible form in my mind until I was convinced there was an entire horde behind me, gaining on me. My footsteps and my heartbeat were pounding in my ears, making it impossible to tell how many there actually were. On and on, my legs pushing the road farther and farther behind me with every lunge. I struggled to keep the fear from overwhelming me, beating it back with the exhausting movement.

In the distance I saw a patch of black, lighter than the darkness around me: the end of the forest. Surely this was my mind playing a cruel trick on me, or rather a trick to motivate me. However the patch began to grow as I moved on and I realized that I was actually nearing the edge. From this distant promise of safety I found the strength to keep going. The patch became a tear and then a doorway, I ran through that doorway and back into the world. Fresh air, stars and open space burst into my awareness. I collapsed on a grassy hill a short distance from the exit. Whipping myself around I looked back at the forest and the evil behind me. Nothing. My lungs were on fire and I gulped down air to try and put it out. I lay there panting, staring and waiting. Seconds and then minutes passed without any sign of movement. Relief flooded over me in shades of joy and ecstasy. With a dawning realization I laughed aloud at what had probably been no more than some small animal.


The Forests

Hit ‘fullscreen’ or ‘download’ to make it easier!


44 (Doing a Project)

(from March 10th, 2010)
———

80, 02, 40, 02 00, 02, 69, 91, 29, __

Roger barely looked up from his piece of paper in time to avoid walking into the annoyingly well-dressed kid strutting past. The kid looked like he’d just combed his hair back with a hamburger, and was talking on his blackberry. ‘Fuck’ thought Roger as he jumped onto the grass out of the way. “… some old leaf” he heard the kid say annoyingly to whatever annoying friend he was ‘talking’ to. ‘Leaf eh?’ Roger was convinced that there was a mastermind living underground somewhere, choosing random words from the dictionary to turn into slang. ‘I’m not a leaf’ he thought defiantly.

He went back to his piece of paper. ‘Eighty divided by two is forty, but then how do you get from forty to two? And why have two zeros, just so that every number is two digits? Does working this out on the street make me a leaf?’ Roger has just won $500 on a lottery ticket, but couldn’t figure out the skill-testing question. ‘This is hard! I never thought they were actually skill testing. And what kind of skill was this testing anyway?’ He kept working on it as he made his way down the street.

In the distance he saw someone he knew coming down the street, ‘fuck’. ‘I don’t want to take out my earphones. Should I do the polite one earphone out thing. Nah fuck it.’ He reached the person, who mouthed something with a smile, Roger couldn’t hear a word of it. “Good and you?” Roger guessed. The other person nodded, said something else and kept walking. ‘Phew! One day I’m going to get that wrong though. They’ll say something like my pancreas just exploded get help! Good and you?’

Roger had reached his destination, 33 Chestnut Drive, the home of Robert. ‘Robert, Robert, Robert… of all the people to be paired up with for this assignment why Robert.’ He banged in the door and waited for an answer. ‘What a barbaric idea that is. Can you imagine doing that in any other situation? If you’re eating dinner and want someone’s attention you start banging on the table. Or just banging on the wall if you want to call someone into a room’.

“Hi there!” Robert’s mother opened the door with a smile.

“Hey, hi, how are you, ma’am?” Roger fumbled. He hated talking to other people’s parents, he never knew how formal to be. For some reason he imagined that once you have a kid you immediately change into someone who only discusses routes to work and fiber; and your only idea of fun is playing ‘who can find the remote’.

“Robert is in his room, go on up!”

“Thank you, Mrs. ma’am”. Robert… Robert was an odd kid. Not a bad kid, but a kid with one VERY annoying habit. At some point between grades 10 and 11 some person, some EVIL person, had told Robert what a palindrome was. Ever since then Robert tried to turn every fucking sentence he ever spoke into one –
“Hey Roger!” said Robert from the top of the stairs. “Reg, or…yeh?” – only he was shit at it.

‘Does he want me to respond to that? Reg or yeh… what the hell does that mean.’ “Hey Robert, how’s it goin’?” He shook Robert’s hand hoping he wouldn’t say anything else. ‘I guess that sort of made sense. Regular, or… yeah regular. But why was it a question?’ He followed Robert into his bedroom. It was like any typical teenager’s bedroom, full of dirty clothes, plates with half-eaten sandwiches and so on. And it smelled like Jabba the Hutt’s jockstrap, whatever that meant. “All set to do this thing?”

“Yup! Puy.” …This was going to be a loooooong afternoon. The two of them had to write a presentation on kayaks and their influence on the fur trade, or some shit like that. Roger found a chair and sat down. He checked his watch 3:53; hopefully they could finish quickly. Roger looked at his new watch, water-resistant up to 100 m. He smiled, and remembered that when he was a kid he actually took depth of water resistance into account when buying watches. ‘Hundred…’ He pulled out the piece of paper with the string of numbers on it. ‘Eighty plus zero two reversed was a hundred. AND forty plus zero two reversed… was not a hundred.’ ‘Eighty, two, forty. Eighty to forty? Negative forty? No that doesn’t help.’ The first six numbers seemed somehow related… but those last three… He angrily put it away realizing that he shouldn’t ignore his word-smith of a friend.

“Did you get those books from the library?” Roger asked.

“Over there, er… eh t-revo.” Robert replied. He chuckled and smiled to himself as if that were a particularly good one. Roger felt himself getting annoyed. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with Robert mentally, so it was OK to think he was a moron. But really, how did he not clue in that the second half of whatever he said made no fucking sense. “See them? Meh, tee-”

“Yeah thanks” Roger cut him off. It was probably pretty hard to do actually, remembering what you just said and flipping it around… but so was head-butting yourself in the balls, that doesn’t mean it’s impressive. Well actually… bad example. Roger pulled out a book on kayaks and started reading. ‘Ah who am I kidding’ he thought and went to turn on Robert’s computer. He moved the mouse and the racecar screen saver disappeared. “Alrighty, wikipedia it is?”

“Good idea, a edid, OOG!” Sometimes he yelled his nonsense words as if that would make more sense. Robert pulled up a chair and sat beside Roger. While the computer loaded Roger pulled out the numbers again. ‘Maybe it’s an odd/even thing…’

“Zero…” he started to think outloud “is that always even?”

“Never odd or even. Ne, verod. Dore ven…” replied Robert. Roger hadn’t realized he was talking out loud. “Hmm”. The computer came on and Roger put the numbers on the desk. The weirdest thing was that Robert hadn’t noticed that his short name: Bob, was actually a palindrome. People made sure not to tell him too, Roger chuckled. Wikipedia came up and Roger typed in a word.

“How do you pronounce this word again?” he asked pointing to the screen.

“Flocci nauci nihili pili fication, No I tac, if I lip, I lihin, I cuanic. Colf?” Robert replied helpfully.

“Right, thanks.” Roger replied, annoyed that his scheme hadn’t worked. They sat there in silence for a second and then he said: “You know that doesn’t mean anything, that last thing you said”.

“It’s a palindrome! Emord… ni lap? As ti!” Robert replied, grinning like an idiot.

“Whatever.” Roger said sitting back in his chair. “So how should be split up the presenting… should I do all the talking or…”

“What’s that? Tah T.S.T. ahw.” Robert said pointing the piece of paper with the numbers on it.

“Oh nothing, a stupid puzzle I can’t figure out. So kayaks… they’re exciting eh?” Robert picked up the paper. ‘I guess he’s changing the subject, was I rude?’ “Ok we can both talk.”

Without saying anything Robert picked up a pen, wrote something and handed it to Roger.

91

“What are you doing. In pen? Really?”

“Leap years. Sra eypa el.”

Leap years..? Then Roger saw it. The commas melted away and he saw the numbers grouped in fours: 8002, 4002, 0002, 6991 and now 2991. Or 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008. Leap years… backwards. He looked up at Robert, who was smiling, happy he could help.

“Leap years… Robert…” Roger was at a loss for words. ‘Wow he just gave me $500.’ Something about the way Robert had just handed him the paper; so eager to help made Roger feel guilty. Guilty for not wanting to be here… guilty for being dissapointed when he’d found out they were partners… guilty.

“Thanks… Bob” Roger said. Robert thought for a second, and then it hit him. His eyes let up as a huge smile came across his face.


Little Bits

For Guys:

He read the first sentence and was a bit baffled. “What?” he said in his head as he read the word in quotations on the computer screen. “Actually he had read all of that in his head”, he said in his head as he read the words on the computer screen. The government plans to raise taxes were defeated. He went back and read the previous sentence a second time and got that the plans the government had to raise taxes were defeated. “WELL HELLO,” he said loudly in his head simply because the words were capitalized. Finally he was at the end of the paragraph? he asked even though it wasn’t really a question.

For Girls:

She read the first sentence and was a bit baffled. “What?” she said in her head as she read the word in quotations on the computer screen. “Actually she had read all of that in her head”, she said in her head as she read the words on the computer screen. The government plans to raise taxes were defeated. She went back and read the previous sentence a second time and got that the plans the government had to raise taxes were defeated. “WELL HELLO,” she said loudly in her head simply because the words were capitalized. Finally she was at the end of the paragraph? she asked even though it wasn’t really a question.

It took me about half an hour, but I’d finally made it to the top of the wall. I let out a satisfied sigh and sat down. I loved coming here to have lunch and get away from the crowds. From up here you could see the whole town, all the way from the river that cut it off on the right, to the thick forest on the left. The hundreds of people bustling around, going about their daily business in their colourful clothes, looking like insignificant automata. They certainly weren’t quite so scary or threatening from where I now sat. It was like observing people from the inside of a house with the lights off. I daresay I even liked –

Just then a huge bird came swooping down towards my lunch; it narrowly missed the leg of chicken in my hand and glided back up. I looked around in a frenzy to see where it had gone. I thought about moving away but the wall was much too high to get down quickly, and too narrow to run along.

I heard a flutter of wings to my right; the bird was about an inch away from my lunch. Without thinking I managed to swipe at it with my right fist. I connected and felt my hand crash against feathers.

The bird let out a squawk and flew away.

The split second of relief that I felt quickly gave way to terror. I’d lost my balance and suddenly felt like I was walking a tightrope. I reached out for the wall but my hand was still holding the chicken leg and the other one held the rest of my lunch. Before I knew it I no longer felt the wall under me, and saw the ground below getting closer and closer. I let out a scream that never made it past my throat.

The impact was sudden and sickening. The ground felt like an unsympathetic adult, scolding me for being so stupid.

Then nothing.

I vaguely noticed the sound of hooves and men rushing around me but it was distant and far off, like someone trying to wake me from a dream.

Then nothing.

A voice again trying to wake me, but I felt like I was underwater looking up at it from below. I drifted around in the murky half-dream for what felt like hours.

Then suddenly a loud voice brought everything back into focus, for a moment at least.

“Mr. Dumpty! Mr. Dumpty! I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can do.”

Then nothing.

“I will call him Spider.”

“Whatever you say Mrs. Man.”

“””””””””Contradictory” said the mute,” typed the caveman,” read the illiterate,” whispered the loud-talker,” shouted the shy person,” sang the pop star,” scrawled the calligrapher,” enunciated the rapper,” wrote the interesting blogger.

He breathed in deeply and held it for as long as he could. The memories and feelings of everyone that had come before coursed through him; he felt them and their energy permeate into every sinew of his soul. Then he exhaled.

He was kneeling in front of an alter in one of the oldest training temples in the world. The stone floor was worn down from years of practice; the air smelled ancient and full of history. He heard the sounds of the dozen or so students in the other rooms as they went through their daily exercises, letting out yelps and groans of effort. He came here every morning to pay respect to the artifacts before he started training. These were the worn down and decaying remnants from the founders of this temple, emblematic of the art-form taught within it. He looked up at the alter and saw the rock, paper and scissors sitting there silently; not making a sound but speaking to very core of his being.

(a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning) (2nd person singular present and 1st, 2nd, 3rd person plural present of be) (to the extent or degree indicated or suggested) (in a high degree; extremely; exceedingly) (inexact or inaccurate)

The lion chased the gazelle across the field and ate it.

lionfieldgazelle
flionieldgazelle
filioneldgazelle
fielionldgazelle
fieldliondgazelle
fieldliongazelle
fieldligazelleon

He got off of his bike, this was as good a place as any. He sat on a bench and checked his watch, almost time! Bob stared expectantly to the East, like a kid stares at the clock on Christmas Eve. The anticipation rose in his stomach until he couldn’t take it anymore and had to stand up. 6:34, almost time! He looked back at the thousands of people that lined the streets, every head turned in his direction. But they weren’t looking at him, they were looking anxiously at the horizon beyond him. Even with all the people in the area no one made a sound, but there was something alive in the air. He looked down at his watch and counted silently in his head: ten, nine, eight, seven, six… the excitement in his stomach was ready to spill over, like baking soda mixed with vinegar… three, two, one. His head shot up to the East – nothing. A frantic murmur started emanating from the crowd. He felt the blood drain from his face as the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. His stomach turned from a pleasant tingle to an icy chill. They were right.

A neighbour of mine book me a cake,
And even mook me a nice milkshake.

“This is because you rook my lawn,
and puck up the leaves before it was dawn!”

I hadn’t yet bat out of the cake,
Or even toke a sip of milkshake.

I couldn’t have lave with myself,
I might have even ped myself,

If I hadn’t admat to being a fake,
And just gew on eating the cake.

“I’m sorry ma’am but I baw a con,
I lew about rooking the lawn!”


Cry Baby Cry

Julian collected the change from his guitar case, counting it with jaded efficiency.  ’10 dollars and 65 cents; 52 and 80 for the day’.  He poured the change into his bag and packed up his gear.  He wasn’t dismayed or delighted; those sorts of emotions went away a long time ago.  This was just business, but even that suggested a kind of zeal, or zest, or whatever the fuck those people have when they talk about ‘business’.  This was just a daily routine that Julian still practiced because… well because he did.  The passion, and love, and whatever the fuck musicians have when they talk about music dried up a long time ago.  All that was left was rusted machinery still operating with an arid effectiveness.

There was a time when Julian took pride in doing what he thought was the last true form of musical expression.  He saw himself as a vagabond, a gypsy roaming the countryside playing to his heart’s content.  He patted himself on the back for playing on street corners instead of peddling coffee or deep-frying potatoes.  Of course he also dreamed of being adored by millions not because it was the cool thing to do but because he spoke to them and connected with their souls.  The thought now made him gag.  Twenty-five years of playing American Pie fifteen times a day to crowds that couldn’t hear him over their goddamn iPods had deflated his romantic notions.  He now saw himself for what he was, just another overweight musician clinging to dreams that he hadn’t truly believed in for years.

He’d packed up his gear carelessly, thrown away the pieces of garbage that were mixed with the change in his case and put on that tattered old leather jacket that every old man with a bad mullet, still clinging to the seventies wore.  As he was about to get going he heard hurried footsteps approaching.

“Please dude, can you play Cry Baby Cry?”

Julian turned around to see a young kid, maybe twenty or so, obviously drunk, doubled over trying to catch his breath.  The rest of the street corner was more or less deserted; it was almost one in the morning.

“Don’t do requests kid.  Not since those assholes wrote Wonderwall.”

“Please, I need to hear it.”

The kid wasn’t lying; he looked about as needy as the junkies that Julian sometimes shared the corner with.  He looked like one mean word would push him over the edge and into tears; like this song could save him from drowning.  It was strange, very strange.  What was ever stranger was that Julian cared; he hadn’t paid this much attention to a ‘customer’ in years.

“My iPod is out of batteries,” slurred the kid, “I need to hear that song.”

Julian remembered what that was like.  Coming home from a night of drinking and feeling that euphoric high teeter and then plummet into a miserable low.  But putting that one song that you love on, that you want to hear more than anything else in the world, made it all okay.  For a moment Julian wasn’t on a street corner at one in the morning.  He was around a campfire again with his friends taking requests, he was playing Stairway to his parents for the first time, he was playing the Crossroads solo to impress a girl even though he couldn’t quite hit all the notes.  He opened his guitar case.

“By The Beatles right?  God I haven’t heard that in years.”  The kid’s face lit up with all the anticipation of a Christmas morning.  “Jesus that’s obscure, you sure you don’t want to hear Hey Jude instead?”  For a second the kid’s smile waned and he tried to respond but just stuttered incoherently.  “Nah it’s okay I think I know it.”  Julian fumbled through a few chords and false starts.

“Cry baby cr-, no that’s not it.”  He tried something else. “Cry ba-, nope.”

“I think it starts on a G,” said the kid.

Julian gave it a shot.  “Cry baby cry.   So it does!”  (Listen while you read.)  He launched into it and the kid seemed like he’d just sunk into a warm bath.  It was a bit sloppy the first time through the chorus, but then it started coming back to him.  Julian loved this song too.

~The king of marigold was in the kitchen cooking breakfast for the queen.~

The kid started swaying and moving in such an unrestrained way that if people were looking on they would say he was the worst dancer they’d ever seen and possibly in need of medical help.  It was so unfettered that it might even seem repulsive and difficult to watch.  But if they could see it from Julian’s point of view they would see someone expressing more happiness than the hordes that had passed by him in the past year put together.

~Cry baby cry, make your mother sigh.~

Julian started moving too, slowly and only a little at first.  It’s not easy to shake off the rust engendered by years of indifference.  Then he started stomping his feet and shaking his head.  Slowly the monotone that he usually sung in dissolved and he sang, he actually sang.

~The king was in the garden picking flowers for a friend who’d came to play.~

They weren’t even trying to hold back anymore.  Julian was bobbling his head and moving his feet.  He was sure he looked a bit ridiculous but he didn’t care.  The kid was jumping up and down, bobbing along with his whole upper body, and mouthing the words.

~Cry baby cry, make your mother sigh.~

The kid’s eyes were overflowing with tears that sprayed everywhere as he danced.  They held memories that Julian was allowed to share in for the moment.  Shame for laughing at the balding lunch lady, who wore the same clothes everyday but was always smiling.  Sadness for the small bird who’d flown into his house and hadn’t died quick enough.  Guilt for not liking the Christmas presents his parents had gleefully thrust into his arms one year.  Regret that the party hadn’t gone as he’d planned.  But a pure, and heavnely happiness that he didn’t have to feel it all alone right at the moment.

~At twelve o’clock a meeting…

“…round the table…”, replied Julian

…for a séance…

“in the dark!”

Julian was pounding at the strings now.  His pick broke around the time the king was picking flowers and so he strummed with his fingers.  He was sure that he was bleeding and that he’d broken a string but he didn’t care. He kept it up for the rest of the song…

~So cry baby cry. ~

He looked up for a second as the song ended.  The kid was frozen waiting to see if this perfect moment could be even more perfect, to see if Julian really knew his music.

~Can you take me back where I came from? ~

The kid jumped up with both arms in the air and screamed with delight.  Julian was jumping up with every quarter note now.   He was yelling, melody was a thing if the past and instead was determined to tear his vocal chords to shreds.  He strummed the final chord for what seemed like minutes and then jumped along with the kid and played it one last time.  They both doubled over gasping for breath.

When the dust cleared Julian got the feeling you get when the credits of a movie come up and you have to get back to the real world.  He and the kid both tried to think of something to say but nothing came out.  It seemed like putting what had just happened into words would just dilute it.  They just smiled at each other.  The kid reached into his pockets for some money but came up empty.  Julian shook his head anyway, he didn’t want any. It was strange how accepting money from him seemed so out of place, like taking money from a friend, even though they’d just met.  The kid nodded knowingly, smiled again and walked away.

Julian looked at the blood all over his guitar from his bleeding finger.  He tied an old handkerchief around it and knotted it tight.  Slowly and carefully he took off the broken string from his guitar and picked up the broken pick from the floor.  He put his guitar away gently, zipped up the case and walked home.


Watching a Movie

Shit, Roger saw his friend Arnold there waiting for him. Roger was a few minutes late, but there Arnold was, on time like always, probably because he knew that if he were even a few minutes late that would give people an excuse to leave. There he was standing in line at the cinema waving like an idiot once he saw Roger approaching. Roger raised his hand a bit and have him one of those facial shrugs you give to people you recognize in the hallways. At least they were seeing a movie, Roger had insisted on that; ten minutes of conversation before, then two hours of staring forward, and finally ten minutes after the movie before he’d tell Arnold he had to go water his plant. Of course that meant ten minutes of brain atrophy, listening to Arnold explain that he’d noticed one of the characters had had his shoelaces tied with a single knot in one scene only to have inexplicably appear double knotted in the next! And beforehand, well he knew what was coming beforehand. At least he was sure Arnold wouldn’t try to make conversation during the movie, he always paid close attention so that he could give the movie either a lauded ‘Arnie Aproves’ or the feared ‘Arnie Avoids’ in his Facebook status.

Now Arnold wasn’t a terrible guy. There were certainly worse people in the world. People who take their shoes off and massage their feet in public, people who get words shaved into their hair, people who turn every fucking phrase in an acronym, children and so on. It wasn’t like he was a murderer or something; unless you considered assisted suicide murder. He just had a very annoying habit that will definitely come to light in a few moments.

“Howdy Rog! Thought you weren’t coming” he said, putting away his cue cards, yep cue cards.

“Hey Arnold, sorry I’m late”, Roger said. ‘Still pleating your jeans eh’, he thought.

“Oh no problemo, how’s everything?”

“Not terrible, and you?”

“I’m just glad to do something fun for a change”. He said that the same way a character in a movie says something that is supposed to alert a person in a closet that it’s time to jump out.

Roger sighed, and went along with it. “Oh yeah, haven’t been doing many fun things lately?”

Arnold’s light up, he grinned and stood up straight. Then with a voice you use when you’re being videotaped he said “oh you know, the wife is always dragging me places. Baby showers, the ice-capades, the theatre, our wedding…”

Pretty funny right? The only thing was that Arnold was only 22 and definitely not married. It was another one of his bits that he thought of, probably while sitting on the can, and considered too funny to pass up so he used it, whether or not it applied to himself or the current situation. He’d been doing it for years, bits about his grand-children, his menstrual periods, how his first name rhymed with so many swear words, how awful it was to wear glasses (he didn’t) and so on. Talking to him was like having a conversation with joke a day toilet paper. The strangest part was that he didn’t consider it strange. He didn’t follow it up with a smile that said ‘hey I know I don’t have a wife, why the hell would I make that joke’. Nope, it was totally normal.

Arnold looked very pleased with himself subtly did one of those cocky head bobs from side to side. Roger usually tried to get onto the next subject as soon as possible after one of Arnold’s bits and just completely ignore it. How do you respond to something like that? “So this movie looks like it’ll be pretty good” Roger said extremely unenthusiastically.

“Oh yeah, that TV show said it’s great. But then again I don’t really care what the TV people say” said Roger, straightening up for another go at comedic excellence. “The man on the TV said it’s T-Shirt weather. I say I don’t let the TV pick my clothes, if I feel like wearing a vest I will”.

Roger nodded, looking around at all of the snow on the ground. “Mm hmm”. “How’s the new place?”

“Pretty swell. Just got a new cheese grater.”

“Nice.” “Good area?”

“Yep, right next to a bus stop.”

“Cool, yeah I hate having to walk a while to get to a bus stop.”

Roger looked around, then at the line, then at his watch. Arnold’s gaze didn’t shift from the movie poster in front of them, Roger could tell he was counting down the seconds in his head until he could tell another joke.

“Speaking of numbers” Arnold finally piped up; they weren’t. “Why was six afraid of seven?”

Roger knew this one, it wasn’t like Arnold not to use his own hand crafted material. “Because seven eight nine?” Roger said impatiently.

“No, because seven was a convicted serial killer”.

Roger nodded in acknowledgment, as it he’d just seen the right answer to a math problem. “Yeah I remember you were always good at math”, it didn’t make much sense, but that was the only thing Roger could think to say. Just then the doors to their theater opened and the line they were in started taking those small awkward penguin steps forward. Roger always liked to look at the people seeing the movie he was seeing, these were the people in his demographic, the people with the same interests as him; they all looked like idiots.

He tuned in to the people behind them and heard someone say, “I punch things to see how strong they are.” A few people ahead of them – ‘interesting how ‘people’ become a unit of distance when you’re in a line’ – two guys were debating which of their shoes were the ‘flyest’. Apparently one person’s were ‘sik-wit-it’ while the other’s were more ‘club banging’ footwear. Enthralling.

“Spoken to any of the old fellas?” Arnold asked. By now they had almost reached the theater doors, he must have sensed that this was his last chance to fit in a bit before they got into the their seats.

“Mm yeah here and there, you?” Roger said. He pictured himself facing Arnold on a baseball diamond, tossing him a ball that Arnold who was waiting eagerly to hit it out of the park with a badminton racket.

“I hear Ian’s becoming one mean guitar player” Arnold said.

“Oh yeah, he’s getting good?” Roger asked distantly, even though he knew Ian had never touched a guitar.

“No he’s just a jack ass” Arnold said with a sheepish grin.

Without thinking about it Roger let out a burst of laughter and shook his head. “That’s pretty good” he said with a chuckle, looking at Arnold after one of his jokes for the first time.

Arnold looked a little embarrassed and but utterly content, as if Roger had been the only person to show up at his birthday party. He turned a little red and looked down, smiling, “thanks, I thought you’d like that one”.

They had approached the doors of the theater and were giving their tickets to the usher to be ripped. Roger patted his friend on the back as they walked in, “good to see you again Arnold”.


Buying Milk

Shit, he saw someone coming towards him in his apartment hallway that he knew, or at least knew enough to know that he’d have to say hi, and that meant taking one of his carefully placed earphones out incase the other person said something important…’FUCK’. ‘It’s always so awkward to spot someone you know walking towards you, you never know when to make eye contact. You do it too early and you have to awkwardly look at each other while you’re too far away to talk. That’s like keeping eye contact with someone while they’re having a root canal.’ So he went through the process of pretending to inspect his immediate environment while staying aware of how close this other person was, ready to look up at exactly the right time. A few seconds of inspecting the wall later he looked up, made eye contact, smiled and said “hey”, or at least he meant to say hey. It was one of those times when you haven’t spoken for a while and when you do it comes out all screwed up. But it was alright, the other person offered up an equally inspired “how’s it going?”, a wonderfully rhetorical greeting. Maybe in time other questions will degrade to the point of rhetoricalness and instead of actually having a conversation people will just speak in disjointed rhetorical ponderings:
P1 How are you?
P2 How are the kids?
P1 Good Weekend?
P2 Great weather eh?
P1 Seeya later!
P2 Bye!
Well anyway, the greeting crisis having been handled expertly and the person having passed him by he lowered his smile a bit, but not all the way. He didn’t want to completely get rid of his smile after he’d passed the person, he wasn’t some kind of jackass. So he kept a grin on his face, as if that brief encounter had just ligthened his day, he felt consolation in the fact that his acquaintance probably looked equally moronic. He’d always been amused by that, how people say hi to one another and then keep smiling afterward, like they’d just read some clever joke. They always stand out, because no matter where you are in public, people look like they’re on their way to be turned into glue.

The elevator door opened and he got in, relieved to be in private once again, so relieved that he let out a big fart. ‘Shit, shit, shit; PLEASE don’t let the door open.’ What was it about farts that is so socially unacceptable anyway, just a normal bodily function, getting rid of waste gasses, people don’t get offended when you exhale. Was it the loud noise? ‘No you moron it’s the fact that they smell like shit.’ The elevator stopped. ‘Oh well, it’s been nice living here, been a great nine years’. He straightened up and tried to look as professional and classy as possible, like someone who would never fart. ‘What expression to wear…what kind of expression would someone who never farts have…probably like someone who is in a lot of pain. Should I pretend like I smell it too? Like I’m annoyed that someone had just farted in the elevator before I came in? No I’ll never pull that off… I’ll just try and look smart.’ He put his hand on his chin and tried to look like he was thinking about something.

An older lady walked in with a dog, he gave her the half-smile/nod, and went back to contemplating. After a few seconds she said “bandit!” Bandit? Was he a bandit for farting in an elevator? He looked over and saw that she was looking down at the dog, “sorry about that” she said.

“Oh, no problem!” he responded. ‘Phew!’, this day was looking up! Speaking of looking up, people in elevators look at those numbers like there’s a laser light show going on up there, ‘they’re not THAT interesting’. But he knew that people just looked at them because they thought that that would let them get to their floor, and out of that 5′ by 5′ chamber of awkwardness faster. ‘Really what do you talk about in an elevator? Ooh you can tell they greased those clamps! I’d rather watch the number show.’

They got to the bottom floor and the lady and Bandit got out first. He made eye contact with the two people waiting to get in and pointed at the dog with a disgruntled look on his face. The building having been navigated Roger opened the front door and let out a sigh. He put his previously perfectly placed earphone back in, and went out into the world to face whatever other disasters lay in wait.


The War of the Tephritidae, Part I: War is Declared

It was the eve of the 6th day in July, they came out of nowhere; overrunning our borders in great number. The vile horde had the audacity to badger my kinsmen and me as we dined; telling tale and singing song of battles long gone.

The beasts of the manor had been disturbed for many moons, their warning I should have heeded. Without sound the tephritidae were upon us, but these were only scouts, sent to inform us of their presence. They received no mercy, and were slain with the might of a thousand suns, their blood stained the dining hall. Though the battle was won, I knew there would be more strife to come; they move in great numbers, breeding their fiendish kin quickly.

I consulted the oracle ‘Oogle, and learned of spells that my ancestors had once used to vanquish this host. They had made the first move, declared war, it was time to answer their call.

The kingdom was swept for any alleys the loathsome creatures might use as shelter. Traps enchanted by the oracle were hidden throughout the land. The borders of the kingdom were closed; their reinforcements would not arrive. Hunters were sent out and told to take no prisoners.

You are a worthy foe, horde of Tephritidae, but you will not live to rue the day you entered this kingdom.