Category Archives: Fiction

Three Words

The Brick Elephant ate the whole fig tree in one shot. (Yup, and then he started right in on another one!)

The Stainless Steel Elephant looked disdainful. There’s simply no justification for gluttony like that – it’s undignified. She sniffed over the sad state of youth today. (Maybe she is older than Brick, but he’s fully growed up. Snooty old hag!)

The Plastic Elephant looked impressed. He knew his limitations, and if he tried to eat a whole fig tree at once he’d just be sick. He probably wouldn’t be able to finish it, anyway. (That Brick, though, he doesn’t even think twice about it – there’s not much as slows him down!)

The Flesh-and-Blood Elephant looked determined. She was sweet on Brick, and found her own fig tree and set to, trying to impress her hero. (She kept glancing over at him – you could tell that hussy was hoping he’d notice her. As if!)

The Helium Elephant didn’t look like anything much at all, and floated off, unnoticed. (Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. And don’t come back round here, neither!)

The Wooden Elephant looked shocked. Shocked! In conflicts between pachyderms and forest, she doesn’t know who to support. (”Can’t we all just get along?” No, we can’t, so shut up already!)

And, finally, the Force-Field Elephant looked thoughtful. He then transformed himself into a fig tree – not so much to change sides as to gain perspective. (He’d change back right quick if Brick headed his way, though – you can bet on that!)

The Brick Elephant, completely oblivious to all this fuss, finished his second fig tree and calmly moved on to the third. (That’s old Brick for you!)

Imagine This With a Smoky Sax Solo

When this dame walked through my office door, all I saw was trouble. Trouble, and the longest pair of legs in California. By that point in the morning I was having trouble telling whether there was one or two of her. Didn’t matter – they both looked good, but they both looked bad, too.

However, I had bills to pay. And since I hadn’t been sapped, stabbed, or shot at in at least a week, I was getting restless. I downed the shot, put the desk bottle back where it belonged, and listened to an improbable story about her runaway husband.

All of that is prelude to me being on top of a parking garage the next morning, being shot at by the improbable husband, instead of sitting in my stuffy apartment reading philosophy and sipping the best bourbon I can afford.

Which is usually the exact same thing as the cheapest bourbon I can find.

I didn’t want to have to kill this bum – that brings down more heat than it’s worth. Besides, wives who pay for you to bring their husbands back usually want them to still be warm and fully functional and mostly unpunctured.

I would have appreciated him pausing the gunfire long enough for me to explain myself. “Hey, your wife asked me to…”

A couple more rounds hit the concrete wall above me. He screamed, “My wife? Don’t talk to me about my wife! She was a saint!”

“She wants you to come home! That’s all I’m here for!”

The car window above me exploded from his next shot. “Who are you? How did you find me? My wife died two years ago!”

I thought this one might get weird. Still, it beat spending the morning getting quietly drunk and brooding.

Or so I thought then.

Dinosaur

The head paleontologist had the work crew haul the brontosaurus into one of the back rooms.  “Thanks guys.  Can you give us a few minutes here?”

As the crew filed out the dinosaur waited, and watched the scientist.  Once they were alone she asked, “What’s going on, Doc?”

He cleared his throat. “I don’t know how to say this…you are a mistake.  We classified you incorrectly, and made some wrong guesses about your skull.  New research shows that you didn’t really exist.”  He looked away, embarrassed.  “I’m sorry.”

The brontosaurus told herself to be cool.  Be cool.  She tried to take a deep breath, but that doesn’t work when you’re just a collection of fossilized bones and a few bits of wire.  No lungs.

“So, Doc, that just means you’ll revise me, make a few tweaks based on the new findings, right?” Be cool.

He sighed and took off his glasses.  “I’m afraid that this is bigger than that.  Brontosaurus is being written out of the books.  You’re all really just Apatosauruses.  It’s not just a simple adjustment.”

“Doc, I’m not just a dinosaur!  I’m THE dinosaur!  I represent the whole superorder in the public mind!” Her voice was beginning to sound frantic.

He smiled sadly.  “Well, actually, I think that Tyrannosaurus Rex is what…”

“No! When people see a T-rex they say ‘Ooo, a T-rex’.  Same thing for Stegosaurus.”  She was panicking now.  “But when people see me they say, ‘Ooo, a dinosaur!’.  When kids draw a dinosaur, they draw me!  When…”

He interrupted her, “I’m sorry.  It’s out of my hands.”  The work crew started coming back into the room.  “There won’t be any pain.  Goodbye.”  He turned and left.

He was wrong.  There was pain, but thankfully it was brief.

Oblivion doesn’t hurt.

Gunther

1. Philosophy

As he waited, Gunther reflected, not for the first time, that only a pantheist can rationally employ violence without a trace of anger.

He’d watched many of his colleagues spiral into madness over the years – killing lots of people in cold blood can be rough on the psyche.  Other people would work themselves up into a rage just to do the job, but Gunther disdained this approach as amateurish – rage makes you sloppy, and sloppy makes you dead. Continue reading

Cold

The room was small and bare. Stephen could touch all four walls without leaving the wooden bunk, and he could touch the heavy pine rafters if he stood up. He could see his breath, but it was warm enough when he crawled into the pile of of bearskins they’d left him. The one tiny window was so badly grimed and scratched that it was more translucent than transparent. It let in thin, wintery light for a few hours every day. The room wasn’t far enough north for total darkness, but the days were short.

 
The supplies they’d left him were as minimal as the room – a bottle of cheap Polish vodka, a box of no-cook MREs, a wind-up flashlight, a pack of cards.
MRE – Meal Ready to Eat. Three lies in one acronym. Stephen hated those things, would have given anything for a loaf of bread and some butter.
It took him a week to realize why he was losing every game of solitaire. At first he assumed that, like everything else, his luck was down. Then he realized that the deck was missing the king of diamonds.

 
He spent a couple of days after that realization wondering if someone had done that on purpose – trying to tell him something.

 
He finished the vodka then.

 
He didn’t need to come hide in a tiny room this far north in the winter to get the message that they were underfunded. He knew that, all too well. He thought about opening the door, walking off into the snow – let someone else continue the struggle.

 
But he stayed huddled under the bearskins and waited.

 
He was running out of MREs when John showed up.

It’s only fair

To gain some perspective, I remind myself: at any given moment, someone is dying, somewhere.  But this really doesn’t help.

I looked at her while the words “six months left” echoed in my head.  Later, I realized that my grief wasn’t simply losing her – I was losing my best future, too.  No wedding, no kids, no growing old and fat together in the suburbs.  All those dreams were smoke now.

Two weeks after the diagnosis she broke up with me.  “It’s only fair.  You should move on now – we’ve only been together for a couple of months, anyway.  I’d feel like I was leading you on if I stayed with you when we both know it’s going to end.”  No rational argument, no pleading, no tears would change her mind. She stopped returning my calls, even before she was too sick to do so.  She had her brother come talk to me, tell me to let her go.  Tears in his eyes, he declined to give her a message for me.  I refused to shake his hand when he left.

“It’s only fair.” Yet all I wanted was to spend every moment with her, whether that lasted six months or sixty years.  It’s been eight years since then, but I still haven’t gotten over her.  She was the one for me, but I didn’t get to keep her.

She’s been cancer free for six years now, and got married last year.  I just heard that she had her first child last week.

To gain some perspective, I remind myself: at any given moment, someone is being born, somewhere.  But this really doesn’t help.