From An In-Progress Sword & Sorcery Epic

“But I don’t want to sweep streets, Father.”

“First thing you learn as a street sweeper. One spends very little time actually sweeping. The Union has seen to that.”

“What do you do if you don’t sweep?”

“There is the Cigarette Break. It’s in your contract, you get fifteen Cigarette Breaks per day. No stipulation as to how long a break may last. Jorge Chiapa, my colleague, he hasn’t gone to work in three years. He is still clocked out on a smoke break.

“There is the Water Fountain Visit.

“There is the Checking One’s Mailbox.

“There is the Call of Nature, # 1.

“There is the Call of Nature, #2.

“There is the Mandatory Rest for the Tired Feet.”

“Your feet must get awfully tired taking all those breaks. Does anyone in this profession actually sweep the streets, ever?”

“Well. Have you seen the streets?”

Zoqueto glanced Fallward up the Rúa dos Suspiros. He then twisted his head and surveyed the scene Fromward.

Scene: wind-whipped papers, dead kits, pile of rotten oranges, ruins of fruitstand, scrap metal, hubcaps. A pair of skis.

Skis?

“Now,” his father said. “Isn’t this something you would enjoy not having to clean up?”

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Publification!

I’ve just had two stories accepted by Flash Fiction Online. “The Cratch, Thy Keeper” is  forthcoming in the March issue, and “Face Time” is presumably coming soon after that. It’s nice to think of getting paid for writing that doesn’t involve hospital computers. I plan to frame whichever of the checks arrives first.

Daedalus and Icarus are on the beach.

Icarus: …where the tuna salad went, Pops, you can’t tell me that there was half a Rubbermaid of tuna salad and it just went missing, do you think I’m still a toddler, that you can pass off these pathetic

Daedalus only half listening. Shell in his hand, calculating azimuth by triangulation.

Icarus gives up, stalks back to the beach hut; the hut their prison, their private hell, their pied a terre in loneliness.

Daedalus returns to the beach hut, ignores the contents of the Frigidaire spread out accusingly on the kitchen table.(Among the contents: an empty Rubbermaid that lately contained tuna salad.) Daedalus enters a screened sun porch whose most striking feature is a four-by-five sheet of plywood with a roll of butcher’s paper tacked to it. Stares at the blueprint inscribed thereon; fifteen minutes later, adds three peremptory strokes. Satisfied, Daedalus returns to the kitchen, retrieves a beer from the countertop. Drinks, warm.

Rewarding yourself? Icarus in the doorway. Tone: tart, accusatory.

Daedalus mumbles. Solved the Bernoulli equation for generation of aerodynamic lift.

The Person With A Newspaper

Lily was playing in the sandbox with the other children. The game seemed childish to her.

She looked across the park. There was a man seated on a park bench. He had a cigar in his mouth, and was reading a newspaper.

“Don’t go talk to him” said another girl. “You can’t ever come back if you talk to him.”

“I’m bored here,” Lily said. She left the others to play in the sandbox. She approached the man and sat by him.

The man said nothing. He didn’t acknowledge Lily.

Lily quickly grew bored with the bench. She started to get up.

“I wouldn’t,” the man said suddenly. He didn’t lower his newspaper.

Lily stood up anyhow. The ground seemed far away. That wasn’t it. Her legs were longer.

“I’m all grown up,” she said, surprised.

“Yes, that’s right.” The man still didn’t lower his newspaper.

“I’m going back to the sandbox.”

“You can’t go back,” the man replied. “You can’t ever go back.” He lowered his newspaper. Lily looked at his face, and realized she’d known him forever, and would always know him. The sun went behind clouds, the ground tilted, and the sound of birds and the sound of children were far away, as distant as the Himalayas or Mars.

I Don’t have a Dog

Winslow Sneed. Beaky gargoyle of a man, hoists himself out of bed. One room shotgun shack. Old iron fry pan. Two pairs of pants. Watery blue eyes.

That dog’s back. Bad enough when the scab-shot flea-ridden cur haunted his back porch, tipped the garbage. Now it’s on Winslow’s sofa, reading. Reading? Reading what? Reading Kirkegaard’s “The Sickness Unto Death.”

Goddam dog. What the hell you readin’ that for?

The dog looks at Winslow over tiny half-moon spectacles. “How close men, for all their knowledge, live to madness, Winslow,” he says gravely.

A Picnic Next To Some Stones

Toast? Thank you. A towel? Ants, so many ants. Dry laughter in the tomb. Setting goals for the month. Taste of lemons when I squint. A thickening. From under the left front wheel. Drips. Simultaneously attracted and repelled. It’s kind of you. Under the shirt. The Worcestershire. Singing below, like wee folk, or a sentient fungus. Cornflowers by the road. Wasps. Ran over my viola with the new Subaru Wagon Crossover. I don’t know, I’m all confused. Aliens? I’m not saying it was aliens. Toad! Welcome to the darkness. It is certainly very dark here. I have a skull. I don’t have a skull. Come, children, we need you for this task. Wandering down to the corner of Elton and Wabansia. At the corner, a witch. She can’t speak German, she’s crying in the cupola. It’s all over. Periwinkle blooms next door. I am monitoring the situation closely.

Science fiction, fantasy, nonsense