Now and then I'll post a new bit of my short fiction.



Catching Up

At 11:33, shaking and exhausted, he finally went to bed. His habit was to end the day no later than 9:00. All right. 9:15 if a particularly good book had his attention. 9:30 at the very latest. But this evening a veritable parade of distractions kept him up long past a decent hour. Stopped-up toilet begging to be plunged. Phone call from sister. Neighbor and neighbor’s wife carrying on a drunken argument on their front lawn. Forget 9:15. Forget 9:30. 10:00 came and went, then 11:00. 11:10. 11:20. Only at 11:27 was he able to brush his teeth, drag on pajamas and collapse into bed.

Find a comfortable position under the blanket.

Reach out with one hand and snap off the lamp on the night table.

The clock by the lamp wearily blinked an unhappy message.




11:32. . .

11:33 saw the onset of unconsciousness. 2 hours and 33 minutes late. Blame the toilet. Blame the sister and the neighbors. 2 hours and 33 minutes behind schedule. Was there anything he hated more than being behind schedule?

Little comfort that a cool and dim-lit day would dawn when he could catch up on this lost bit of sleep, forever.



He went out to the car and found his ex in the front seat listening to a song from back when. The song seemed familiar, but the title danced away from his recollection. The ex, she wasn’t going anywhere, so when he went for a drive it wasn’t alone.

I didn’t expect to see you again he said.

I need some money his ex said.

How much.

Whatever you can spare.

I can maybe give you twenty.

Forty would be better.

Twenty’s what I can afford.

The ex slumped in her seat. OK OK she said. OK OK.

They headed in the direction of downtown. The sky turned storm-green. The wind picked up. Blobs of pollen whirled past the windshield like lost birds. A scrap of paper blew in one window out the other. At the atm by the liquor store he withdrew twenty and the ex put it in her purse and he waited to see, all right now, and she made no move to get out of the car.

Let’s keep on driving the ex said.

Where to he said.

See where the road takes us.

Which would have sounded fun, like an adventure, if not for all the times he’d been down the road she meant and ended up exactly nowhere.

Minutes later they passed a house with a swaybacked roof and leaning garage.
I used to cut grass at this place he said, slowing the car to a crawl. A lady on crutches lived there. She lost her feet in an industrial accident. She used to sit on the porch and yell about being a cripple. How her stumps hurt. How everyone always wanted to help when she didn’t want it and ignored her when she did. She wouldn’t shut up. I’d hear her over the lawn mower engine.

When did you ever cut grass the ex wanted to know.

Back in high school. I didn’t do it long. I’d see these guys who’d been cutting lawns a few years and they weren’t alive anymore. The sun beat them down. Their hands were stained green from picking up grass cuttings. I didn’t want to turn into that and got a job in a garage.

I remember those wrenches of yours.

Gone. Them and that job are history.

He stopped the car and got out and opened the door for his ex and they waded through kneehigh weeds to the rear of the house. During the previous winter or perhaps the one before a birch tree had fallen against the garage. The windows of both the garage and the house were missing. The storm was getting close. Flash of light. Count one two three four. Here came the thunder.

His ex dug through her purse for a cigarette and lit up. She exhaled soft smoke and the scent whisked him off to a place he’d thought locked up and forgotten.

I hate summer he said and pretended, not for the first time, to be the only human being left in the world.


"These Ones"

Who are they, drifting into our camp by the lake. Appearing from the woods and wandering through a maze of shabby tents and filthy sleeping bags. Stepping around a hundred small fires. Day and day and day again. They come and they come. The one who waves hello to everyone he sees. The one who keeps her mouth covered with a hand. The one with weary eyes. The one with many nervous tics. The one who peels off his clothes and dives deep into the lake. The one who sits on a stone by a blackberry bush and picks off berries and feeds them to squirrels. The one who writes in the dirt with her fingernail. The one who claims God has a plan. The one who laughs at the notion that a higher power can possibly be at the wheel. The one who goes a little mad, then a lot mad, then seems normal again, but isn’t, not really. The one who walks to the center of the camp and dances in tight circles. The one with two hats on her head, pink and the bright yellow. The one, I think he’s a man, but so old who can tell, just loose skin and white wispy hair and so many wrinkles it’s hard to make out a human face. The one who smiles and smiles and smiles, then lies down under a tree and stops breathing. The one with a limp, who says he was born lame, the limp used to be much worse, it has steadily gotten better the further west he’s walked, maybe if he travels far enough his gait will completely heal. The one who can’t stop looking over his shoulder, but never explains what terrifying entity haunts the rear. The one with red hair tied into dirty knots. The one with hair that is no definable color. The tall one. The short one. The one so thin she seems transparent. The one who talks to himself with a variety of unique voices. The one who nods quietly and seems so wise it makes me hurt deep down in a way that defies description.

These ones. I used to hear people use the phrase, maybe hundreds of times, and always wanted to ask them hey what’s wrong with you, these ones doesn’t make any sense, a plural describing a singular, can’t you see the obvious contradiction of terms. There is no these. There are only ones. We are all ones. We are all part of a great unseen whole that moves towards a common fate. Proper grammar isn’t the issue. There are matters of much more importance.