• Dzama

Other Orders

Pushing past some teenagers in winter coats Rainer collapsed onto a bench at the Zug train station in Switzerland. She lay there, face white, eyes wide and staring. The sound in her head was overwhelming and terrifying, a mechanical squealing and grating that rose in volume until she felt like her brain would tear apart. Then she heard the familiar whispering voice. She sat up, her black hair in disarray, trails of mascara down her cheeks. The pointed blades taped to her long fingernails were stained with dried blood…

Two weeks earlier she’d been on a plane. Drawing in a little white book. Pages and pages of bodies intertwined. The man seated next to her was a city councilman. When they carried his body off the plane she was long gone.

Two weeks before that she’d been hiking in the woods not far from Bremen with her sister. The authorities later come across a naked man, covered head to toe with long, matted hair, with elk antlers strapped to his head. His teeth were sharpened to points. He lay there, having apparently bled to death.

Two weeks before that she’d had a long phone conversation with her father. Her father had been drunk and somewhat loopy. His voice sounded almost feminine in his old age. Pops and crackling could be heard from whatever he was frying on the stove.

And before that several men in black helmets with face shields chased her into a New York subway station. The train came screeching in, a rush of hot wind hitting her face. She watched the men push into the rush-hour crowd but as the train doors closed she left them behind.

Back at Brienz by the lake she untaped the blades from her fingers. She made a big pile of weapons under a maple tree. Relaxing on a hammock in her underwear she called her sister but no one answered. She paged through a children’s book about a large animal with an injured paw. Sammie brought her a drink. You know, Rainer, he said. They found you. They actually tracked you down this time. Her grey eyes watched his facial muscles twitch. I saw the plane come in. They’re not far. What are you going to tell them when they knock on your front door?

Rainer took a long drink. She turned and rose from the hammock. She lifted an antique scaling knife from the pile by the tree. Tell them to come back here.

Sammie stared at her. You know you can’t do that this time, he said.

Just then a man grabbed Sammie from behind and two more dropped down from the trees behind Rainer. Three more men with black helmets and visors rose up out of Lake Brienz.


Sitting in a makeshift prison Rainer scratched crude images into the walls. But after thirty-six hours she was released out to the streets, due to a technicality.


Wake up, Sammie! Wake up!

What? Who is it?

It’s me!


They let me out.

Before long the two were climbing a path up into the mountains, passing a kirsch canteen back and forth and singing religious country songs. When it got dark the whispering voice came back but she just sang louder, I saw the light, I saw the light! Soon she held Sammie’s face and kissed him. The squealing and grating noises returned but she ignored them this time, the bitter almond kirsch taste in her mouth as she closed her eyes tight.


Posted in Short Story | 3 Responses


The three of them headed up through the trees that night without speaking. Each one had a heavy weight to bear- Hans a chainsaw, Maggie an old doctor’s bag, and Jeff 7 carried the dead dog. An iridescent mist trailed behind them. When they reached the crest of Farmer’s Ridge they rested, gazing down at the valley below with its confetti of lights. Look at all them little windows, Hans said, waving the chainsaw to indicate the whole valley. Inside one of them houses someone’s getting fucked, meanwhile in another someone’s taking their last breath.

Highly unlikely, said Jeff 7.

Unlikely? Which part? Hans looked at Jeff 7, his chainsaw still raised.

Both things. I sense a deep yearning from the people of this valley. An unrequited longing for something they don’t yet have.

You and your Spidey senses. Just a bunch of simple humans down there. Your simple, average humans don’t yearn for anything. They eat, fuck, and die. In between they give each other a hard time.

At this point Maggie had claimed a large boulder for a seat and removed a flask from her bag. She took a long drink before twisting closed the silver cap. Shut up, Hans, she said. What do you know about humans?

Hans inadvertently scratched one of his pointy ears. He looked at Jeff 7. See what I have to deal with? he said.

Let’s go. There’s not much time, said Jeff 7.


When they arrived at the pulsating spacecraft they stopped. Any last words for planet Earth? Jeff 7 asked. Hans? …Maggie?

Good luck, idiots, said Maggie. She carried the doctor bag up the ramp into the blue saucer.

Hans? Jeff 7 waited.

No, I guess not. They’ll all figure it out themselves eventually. Hans started toward the spacecraft.

I disagree, said Jeff 7. I don’t believe they will ever figure it out. Hans stopped and looked at him. What are you saying, Jeff 7?

I’m saying we leave the dog, he said, setting the inanimate dog down on the dry leaves of the forest floor. We make it alive again and fill it with messages to spread to all the humans. Everything we think they should know.

No, we need to bring that dog BACK with us, Jeff 7! Møstroh said to.

Screw Møstroh. There’s an entire race of sentient beings down there that could really use a hand. I mean look at how they behave with each other.

Screw Møstroh? Are you serious? Hans stared.

I’m leaving the dog, said Jeff 7.

Well good luck bringing it back to life. I ain’t helpin you. I ain’t gettin’ banished by Møstroh to the Corynthian Galaxy again. No-siree. Hans headed up the ramp, swinging the chainsaw.

Has Interstellar Interface really made you that callous? Jeff 7 asked.

Yup, Hans said before disappearing into the ship.

Jeff 7 sat cross-legged in front of the dog. He waved his six-fingered right hand in circles over the dead animal. He murmured some incantations. The beast did not revive. He glanced back up at the ship. The ramp lights were now flashing and there was an urgent beeping noise. He saw Maggie look out from one of the portals for a second before disappearing from view.

You’ll spread the message to these beings, he told the dog. Then he went into his incantations again with a manic intensity. The dog appeared to stir for a second. Jeff 7 went on intoning magical phrases as fast as he could while behind him the spacecraft ramp was being raised. He laid his hand on the dog’s fur as the ship commenced spinning at a blinding speed. Leaves and branches were whipped into small twisters. When the ship shot off into the starry sky, Jeff 7 was still talking to the animal.

After the leaves and branches of the forest had settled, a lone human came stumbling down the path. What you got there, a dead dog? The human asked, swaying with inebriation.

Jeff 7 remained cross-legged, eyes closed, his humanoid form gradually dissipating. As Jeff 7 faded, the dog jerked to life spastically, like a marionette. Its eyes glowed. Don’t… Be afraid, the dog said to the human observer. I.. Come… In… Peace?



Posted in Short Story | 5 Responses

The Writers

The old man held up a piece of typing paper. This blank, white page is like a whole mirror covered with cocaine to me! He shouted. It’s like the slope of a Swiss mountain after it snowed. A perfect white slope of powder just waiting for me to destroy it!

Life is a series of punches, I’m not going to lie to you, the old man continued. Before a boxer goes in a ring they tell him he might get hit. Whatever they tell you won’t prepare you for what you get. Life is a big factory that manufactures broken toys! So that’s why you sit down in front of a white page and start punching back!
The old man’s interviewer stared out one of the giant windows at finches arguing on a branch just outside. His tape recorder hummed away beside him. Then he looked back but the old man was gone. The monster of a typewriter remained, with a blank page fed into it, ready to go. The interviewer glanced around and then commenced typing:

The ancient clutched the boy’s hand and hissed, Life is a big factory that manufactures broken toys! He released the boy’s hand and collapsed back into his chair. Grandpa? The boy said. But the ancient was gone.
Days later the ancient was being lowered into a deep hole in the Warburshon Cemetery.

So you’ve already killed me, have you? The old man said, suddenly behind the interviewer, reading over his shoulder. Well, let me show you something! He lifted the typewriter with both hands and, with a violent swing, knocked the interviewer in the head with it, sending the younger man toppling to the ground, unconscious.

The old man set the typewriter back in its place and began pounding the keys:

The ancient threw the lid off his casket, refusing to be lowered into the ground. Cemetery workers, clutching the straps that supported the coffin, stared, frozen in disbelief. You won’t get rid of me that easily! The ancient shouted, leaping out of the box and running through the trees toward the gate.

 Harry! What have you done? The old man’s wife stood in the doorway in her nightgown. They both looked down at the interviewer, who now lay now in a small pool of blood. The old man stood up from the typewriter, flustered. I just wanted to teach him a lesson. I didn’t–.

You taught him a lesson all right! His wife said. She lifted her hand to clutch the doorjamb. So much blood… she whispered.

Just then the young interviewer sprang up and lunged at the old man, grabbing him by the neck and throttling him with both hands. Blood dripped down one side of the interviewer’s head. The old man fell back against the typewriter. As they struggled, the old man’s hand reached back, finding a ballpoint pen on the table. Swinging his arm forward, he repeatedly stabbed the interviewer with the pen until they both collapsed to the ground. The wife moved into the room and stood over them. When she could see they were both dead she sat down at the typewriter and typed: 

The cemetery workers watched as the ancient ran out through the cemetery gate.

What do we do? one of the cemetery workers asked.  

They told us to bury him! The other one said. So we bury him! 

They caught up with the ancient in the parking lot. Where do you think you’re going? The first worker asked. He brandished a musket, aimed directly at the ancient. The ancient raised his hand. Now be reasonab— BANG!  

But it was the cemetery worker with the musket who collapsed to the ground. The second cemetery worker lowered a small pistol, smoke curling from the muzzle.

The old man’s wife paused. I did not see that coming, she said quietly to herself. She glanced down at the two men in their death embrace on the carpet. The sky outside the great windows had turned scarlet with the setting sun. A flock of crows flew by, their ugly voices sounding like laughter. When the sun finally dropped behind the ridge the sky became blue and then black. The old man’s wife remained seated at the typewriter, making no move to light a candle as the whole scene was lost in darkness.



Posted in Short Story | 2 Responses

Last Day

James drew four boxes on a page of graph paper and connected the boxes with some lines. Then he drew some more lines in light blue ink, and some circles. He took a fine, gold-tipped fountain pen from the pocket of his brown dinner jacket and drew a small seahorse inside each box, the fourth one with a unicorn horn. The 87 Pacific clattered by outside the window, sounding a shrill whistle. There was also a woman’s voice calling something. James thought he heard his name. He set down his pen, heading to the window. He drew open the blinds and pushed up the sash. The world outside was humid and green. A woman stood below the window, face glowing in the twilight. Her grey dress was decorated with a pattern of purple and red orchids. She extended her bare arms up towards him. Quickly! she said, with a glance back in the direction the train had gone.

James reached out the window and took hold of her small, moist hands. He held tightly so she wouldn’t slip out of his grasp. Her hands in his, she stepped her high heels against the stucco below the window until she reached the top. When he’d gotten her inside she dropped down into his chair. Who drew this? She asked, looking at the lines and boxes and sea horses. You?

Just then Mermachree burst through the door. Did you hear anything strange? Mermachree asked. We heard some things. From the train! There was somebody out back. Did you see anything funny? James looked over at his desk. The woman had disappeared. Maybe she was hiding behind it? I heard, James started. I heard… heard, uh… a whistle.

The whistle of the train. Of course. But any voices?

Well, I suppose I heard voices, probably people in the dining car.

You wouldn’t have heard that. Mermachree glanced at the drawings on the desk. Who drew those?

I’m not sure… I—

What do you mean? Mermachree paused. I was just about to praise the artist. Hey, relax James. It’s Friday. He patted James on the shoulder. But then Mermachree coughed and spat and collapsed right there on the floor. The woman revealed herself from the shadows. She placed a bloody butter knife on James’ desk.

James looked down at Mermachree. He dropped down on one knee and turned Mermachree’s body over but it had gone cold and stiff. Blood spread on the dark hardwood.

I’m taking these, the woman said, lifting the drawings carefully from the desk and folding them into squares. Then she was gone out the door.

James stood and pulled some tissues out of a box to wipe Mermachree’s blood off his hands. He pulled his cell-phone from the charger and entered 9-1-1. But before he got through to a dispatcher he’d put down the phone and was climbing out of the window, lowering himself down to the gravel by the train tracks. Another 87 Pacific train moved slowly past. At just the right moment he jumped half onto a flatbed train car. He swung his legs up and held on as the train accelerated. The whistle blasted, sounding like an alarm. Lying on his back he took a nail and scraped Mermachree’s blood from under his fingernails. When he was satisfied he’s gotten all the blood off he closed his eyes. The train rattled on, taking him further and further away from his usual desk and the cell phone that wouldn’t stop ringing.



Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment


Stattin wore a yellow raincoat to protect what was left of him. His face was puffy and bleached but under his mac his body was bones and gore- fatty tissue and knotty intestines barely hanging on. To see him walking through the woods you just thought, There’s a guy wearing a yellow raincoat, maybe a fisherman. But there’s no place to fish in these parts anymore- the rivers have become mud and in the middle of what was the lake there is a wide mucky hole that goes down for miles into the earth.

I used to think I heard woodsmen cutting with chainsaws out in the trees- a common sound when I was a boy- but the industrial grinding was Stattin- that’s how his ruined voice came out. He’d make those horrible noises and slap his limp hands against the tree trunks, dragging his rubber boots through the dry leaves.

One day Stattin had a friend- it was a girl, a beautiful girl. He sculpted her out of mud and clay and river muck and shaped her body so it looked like she was resting on Sunset Rock. She was truly a beauty. Her lips were red, colored by poisonous berries pulled from brambles. She had a mysterious smile that cast a hypnotic spell on anyone who looked long enough. Stattin looked and looked and dropped to his jagged knees in front of her. She’s the one who would tell him to do things.


Later, after all the bloodshed I thought back to those evenings as the sun was setting when I’d see Stattin silhouetted, kneeling there before the sensuous mud goddess, listening, listening to a beautiful velvet voice soothe him and command him.


I was only about fourteen when I went into the woods alone to see the mud girl up close. I stood beside her, nearer than I’d ever stood to any girl. I asked her, What did you tell Stattin? What’s he gonna go do for you? And she stared back at me, grinning. I closed my eyes and felt her soft fingers stroke the sleeve of my jacket. I heard a soft voice whisper just like the hiss of a snake.

Then I took off running, tearing down the hill, sharp tree branches ripping at my face as I got lower and lower into the valley, not stopping until I was at my own doorstep and could smell stew and cornbread cooking on the other side of the front door.

With my hand on the door handle, I glanced back over my shoulder at the dark hill with its thin branches silhouetted against the blackening sky. Then I slipped into our house and bolted the door behind me.

In the middle of the night I heard that terrible grating chainsaw-wail and looked out the window to see an unnatural glow up by Sunset Rock. I could just make out the shadow of Stattin returning, dragging a heavy sack behind him.

When the glow finally faded the cicadas lulled me into a half-dream where I imagined myself dancing with the mud girl. I kissed her stained red lips and tasted the poisonous juice on my tongue, all the while listening for the terrible sound of Stattin returning, an unfortunate lump in a dirty burlap sack dragging behind him.



Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment

Tin Man

Caught myself thinking life was not so bad. I’m sitting on a plane wearing silk shorts instead of pants. I have a tinfoil helmet on, with the eyes cut out. Some green slippers from Bali. None of this is illegal. Either that, or no one in the airline industry cares anymore. When I turn my head I’m always a little afraid part of my helmet will fall off- the construction is rather flimsy. Now- is someone going to tell me to put my shirt back on? Apparently not. Even the professor in the seat next to me is not looking- he’s too focused on his little tablet world over there.

Why is no one else laughing at this movie? When I see something funny I laugh –out loud. Sometimes I’ll like hit the seat in front of me if it’s really funny. Is no one allowed to laugh at something?

The first thing you have to do when you get on a plane is take your shoes off. I’m doing that right now. Try to grip the carpet with your toes.

Look, I’m going to take a walk. We’ll see how well this goes over. What, are they going to arrest me for wearing a tin helmet? Listen, professor, I’m going to need to step over your little tablet party.

Something’s wrong though. I think I forgot my cell phone back in the airport bathroom. Otherwise I’d be taking a selfie right now with my lovely fellow flyers.

Oh, it’s so quiet now without my headphones plugged in. Cable just swinging as I navigate down the aisle. I think these big headphones are helping to keep the helmet on actually. Okay let me interview some of these people. Hello, miss, is this seat taken? Yes? Well maybe your “husband” won’t mind if I ask you a few questions. Did you just say you were going to pepper-spray my face? Well I know you’re not because we’re on an AIRPLANE. You don’t pepper-spray in close quarters. Plus I have a HELMET on. And that —AAEEEIIIIEEEEE!!! My fucking eyes!! You’re killin’ me! Stop spraying that! Stop spraying that! …MAN!!

Okay, I’m in pain but I’m calming down. Calming down. Where did she go? I close my eyes for a second and she’s gone.

Now wait a second, where is everyone else from this part of the plane? Where did they all go? Okay, well watch this. I’m pressing the flight attendant button repeatedly. When someone gets here I’m going to ask for some coffee and a slice of pie. All I need is some coffee and pie to enjoy my life for once.

Now this started out as a good day. Actually no, I’m lying. It started out as a terrible day. I kind of had a fit. Let’s just say I did a lot of things I’ll pretty much regret the rest of my life. So yes, started bad then turned good when I found this tinfoil.

You know, I’m just going to sit here and wait. Sooner or later someone is going to have to bring me some coffee. If not, I’ll demand a refund. You know, I’m kind of coming down now. First I was up here, then I was plateauing, then I started coming down. This helmet is sweaty and it’s cutting into my face. It’s these headphones that are so annoying. Get these headphones off me! That’s better.

Listen, it’s getting a little creepy. I think I just saw someone peek from behind that curtain. They’re leaving it kind of dark over here –I know why. Silver headgear looks way better in the dark. Especially if you just had to throw it together the day of.

Why do I feel like we’re landing?

Why do I feel like I’m being surrounded by a bunch of cops? Maybe because I am. Well, it’s been nice talking to you. We’ll have to get together at some other juncture- some time when I’m not being dragged down the aisle by a bunch of pimple-faced teenagers in SWAT gear. Look, let’s talk then –okay?



Posted in Short Story | 8 Responses

Showdown in Briardale

The two of them lay on an inflatable raft floating and spinning slowly down the river. His skin was partially torn off, revealing robot mechanisms and wires beneath. Her skin was mostly intact. She lay with her head on his chest, listening to the pistons extending and contracting his mechanical heart. Birds chirped in the tree branches that had grown over the river. Now and then a fish jumped out of the water to catch a dragonfly in its mouth. The robots’ eyes were closed but the female’s hard-drives were running, purring as they sorted information.

Spinning around a bend in the river the raft floated past some soldiers in Revolutionary War patriot uniforms who were coming down a path through the woods. As the soldiers set up a picnic of pheasant on a large rock slab, one of them spotted the raft floating by. Hey, look at that! A young soldier said, pointing a pheasant drumstick at the outlandish raft. An old man plucking pheasant feathers took notice as the raft floated out of view.

Further down the river the raft encountered some rapids. It was thrown around and almost capsized but the robots didn’t open their eyes, they just held each other tighter.

The raft floated day and night, for miles through forested areas. Occasionally delinquent kids, out smoking in the trees, threw rocks at them. Dragonflies alighted on their foreheads. Now and then the raft snagged on roots extending from the riverbank but every time the current pulled them away.

After about a week they reached the outskirts of the small town of Briardale. The male robot’s eyes popped open, glowing red. This is it, baby, he said, squeezing the female’s shoulder. Her eyes popped open too, glowing magenta. They hand-paddled the raft over to the shore. Pulling themselves up onto a small dock they left the raft behind, heading towards a few small buildings with people working on boats nearby.

Even from a distance the mechanical precision of the robots’ gait looked unnatural and the dock-workers stared. Anyone who got too close was instantly lacerated by laser beams shot from the robots’ eyes. Word spread and by the time they reached the town square a rag-tag militia had assembled, crouching behind the old stone walls, mismatched muskets pointed at the intruders. The mayor of the town, with muttonchops and hair tied behind in a pigtail queue, stood on the stage of the central gazebo and addressed the intruders. Thou shalt step not a foo—and he was brutally diced with double laser beams. This set off a torrent of bullets from the militia that ripped the skin clean off the robots, revealing spidery silver skeletons. Smoking, the robot skeletons continued to advance across the town common.

Just then the patriot soldiers arrived from up the river. The trained soldiers jumped the robots and the sheer weight of their bodies pinned the robots down. But even with fifteen men per robot it was a struggle. Now and then one of the patriots would get thrown, landing some yards away. Keep them down, said a voice. The old man who had been plucking feathers at the picnic came wobbling across the grass. He pushed between the soldiers and opened a panel in the back of the male soldier’s head. He pulled some wires apart. There! he said and the robot froze in position. But just then the female robot erupted in fury, throwing off her attackers in every direction. She blasted a laser beam at the old man but he tumbled out of the way and lost only one of his legs. Blood gushing from where his leg had been, he lifted the male robot’s head and, operating controls inside the back panel, used the head to fire laser blasts at the girl robot, forcing her to dance back and forth. They traded laser blasts until finally the female robot unleashed a tremendous magenta fireball incinerating the old man and the patriot army soldiers and creating a huge crater in the town common. When she realized she had unintentionally melted to death her robot companion she let out a terrible siren-like scream and took off like a rocket into the sky, the likes of her never to be seen in Briardale again.



Posted in Short Story | 2 Responses

Getting the Can

Everything was just so. There were tables laid out with body parts and one table with brains. It was Josh’s job to put everything together and have a set of functioning humans for the show in an hour. He knew if he put the pieces together incorrectly the thing wouldn’t work and there’d be one less human walking out on stage. He started with the toes, attaching them to feet where they clicked into place like magnets. He wore a headlamp and thick, round glasses. When Marcie came in he almost had a full body going. We’re on in thirty-five minutes, she said, looking at her phone. I am aware of that fact, he said quietly, not looking up.

I’m seeing one body not even done yet, she said, picking up a brain from the table and turning it over in her hand. The first one always takes the longest, Josh said. He clicked the brain into the skull. See, look. He plopped the frontal bone and the parietal bone on top of the head and clicked them all together.

It has no eyes, she said.

I’m getting to the eyes! He picked out two matching eyes from the eye table and tapped them into place. The body suddenly came to life. Hello, nice to meet you! he said to Josh. Josh looked at Marcie and grinned.

Well, you’ve got nine more, Marcie said before leaving the room. Josh went and turned up the music. New York Hardcore always made him work faster. Can I help you? the newly assembled human asked.

No… Uh… Just stand over there, Josh said. The new human complied. He stood by the wall naked, watching Josh work. Before long Josh had a second one ready, a woman this time. Now go stand over by your friend, he said to her.

That’s not my friend, she replied.

Okay, I just mean that guy. Stand over by that guy.

I don’t like that guy, she said. Josh stared at her. What’s not to like? he said. He was just born –just like you! But she wouldn’t budge, standing a few feet from Josh, naked like the first one. Okay, okay, Josh said. Just let me focus. I’m running out of time.

How much time do you have?

Josh checked his phone. Sixteen minutes! If I don’t stay focused I’m going to screw this up so please—

You’ll never make it.

Josh glared at her, then pressed ahead. Soon a third stood in front of him and he clicked the ears on. Oh, hello there, the new girl said.

Okay please stand over there by him while I finish the rest of you, Josh said.

Why can’t I stand here, with her?

What’s wrong with that guy? said Josh. Just stand over there!

Why doesn’t she have to?

Listen, all of you, just stand in one place, you’re distracting the fuck out of me!

Can I turn this music down?


Geez, sorry. What’s with him?

He’s been like this the whole time, the first girl said. Then Marcie appeared at the door and looked in. That’s what I thought. Just give me what you have, she said.

Look, here’s another one, Josh said, fitting two arms onto another male.

That’s not the right head for that body.

Yes it is.

No it’s not. Just give me the others. Do they have names?

Not yet. You can do the honors.

Okay, Human One, Human Two and Human Three come with me. The naked people followed her out through the door toward the stage. When she was gone the new one turned to Josh. Is my head wrong? he asked Josh. Josh stopped working and stared at the body and head combination. No, she’s smoking crack. Quick, you might still make it! He pointed to the door. The new guy went out. Josh looked at the time on his phone. Fuck! FUCK!

He dropped down onto the couch. He stared blankly at a half-assembled human in front of him. Need help with that? Josh turned to see the fourth human in the doorway. They wouldn’t let me on stage, he said. Show already started.

The fourth walked over to the half-assembled body and began adding body parts to it: ribcage over the lungs, pectoral muscles over the ribcage. How do you know how to do that? Josh asked.

I just do.

Josh watched as the fourth assembled six more humans perfectly, in record time. The newly finished naked humans conferred over by the soda machine. The fourth walked back and stood over Josh. Since it’s too late for us to go out on stage we’re just going to go, the fourth said. Then all seven filed out the door, heading to the elevators.

Josh sat there. He reached up and turned off the music. It had started bumming him out. Then he lay back on the couch, putting his feet up. He lay there staring at the ceiling, wondering how long it would take for someone from head office to come down and give him the can. He glanced over at the table. There was a single eyeball staring at him. How could they forget that? he asked himself. And then he started laughing. He was still laughing when Marcie came in and told him to get his stuff and clear out. Even down on the subway, cardboard box in his lap, he continued to laugh. The sour expressions of the other subway passengers struck him as hilarious and he erupted in loud guffaws that made his eyes water. When he arrived at his stop he wasn’t laughing anymore but he still had a big smile on his face. With a spring to his step he pushed out through the turnstile and ran up the stairs into the light.



Posted in Short Story | 6 Responses


Three rust-colored leaves floated past Sala’s balcony and landed on the water below. The sun smoldered just above the horizon. Drawing on a pipe, the captain gazed over the railing from his white wicker chair. Sala was still in bed, her little form resting on top of the blankets, sweaty and feverish.

The dog’s head lifted from the rug and his ears went up. The captain took notice. He stood and leaned over the balcony. There they come, he said. One after another green, spindly fish-men lurched out of the water, gills pulling in the cold air. The girl watched them through the balcony balusters without moving her head. Are they coming for me, Captain? she asked.

The Captain smiled. He could hear the fish feet slapping the wood floor downstairs. No, you’re one of us now, he said. Soon three of the fish creatures crowded through the bedroom doorway and stood dripping on the rug. The dog growled and then barked, backing away. You can’t take her, the Captain said calmly. The glassy fish eyes stared. She’s one of us now. But just as he said that a harpoon pinned his right hand to the railing. He yelled. Another one shot straight though his chest. The fish-man lowered his harpoon gun. Then the other two fish-men went for the child with a weighted net. You’re too late, she said, rising up on the mattress before they could reach her. She held up her hand and spread apart her little fingers. No more webbing! She ran her hand down the side of her neck. No more gills!

The fish people stared. A fourth fish-man pushed through the doorway, raising a spear above his head. The girl stood tall and let out an ear-piercing screech. Before they could react she jumped off the bed and ran out down the stairs.

Soon she was outside on her bike, pedaling like mad up the muddy road.

When she arrived at the old cottage it was nightfall. Smoke floated up from the chimney. She banged her tiny fist on the red door. But out of nowhere fish-men rose up behind her, blocking the moonlight. She banged on the door more urgently then tried the knob and it opened. She slammed it behind her and slid the lock closed. I’m human now! she shouted through the door with the biggest voice she had. You’re not my family anymore!

She stood by the door, listening. It was quiet. Minutes passed. Is that you, Trip? asked an old woman seated by the pot-bellied stove at the other end of the room. Sala turned. Hi J.P., she said to the old woman. It’s me, Sala.

J.P. rose from her rocker and looked deeply into Sala’s eyes. You have clear eyes, she said. Not fishy.

Thanks to you.

Yes, I remember, J.P. said. She walked slowly to the window and looked out into the blackness before drawing the curtain. You will have to face them one day, you know. Your family, that is, she said. Sooner better than later, the old woman continued. She opened a large trunk. Take this. She handed Sala a glittering trident. Sala beamed and touched the three impossibly sharp tips with her finger.

Later J.P. made a bed for Sala on the couch. Sala smiled up at J.P. as the old woman covered her with a large quilt. She was still clutching her new trident and smiling as J.P. blew out the candles and went upstairs to bed.



Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment

Night of the Prospector

This guy was frozen solid. Me and Marty stood him up and leaned him against a tree and he stayed in that position: arms out, almost Christ-like. Frozen hair spiking every-which-way. Eyes glassy and staring. His expression a twisted scowl. I brushed some powdery snow off his forehead with my glove.

You hungry? asked Marty. Cuz I ain’t eaten all day.

What, and leave this guy here?

He ain’t goin’ anywhere.

Yeah, but what about them kids? It was decided: we lifted the frozen man and set him in the back of Marty’s pickup truck. We threw a furniture blanket over him so no one would really see anything.

Later at Spidelda’s Inn we sat finishing onion rings. There was a large chandelier made of antlers overhead and a fire burned in the fireplace. How long do you suppose he was lying there frozen? Marty asked.

I don’t know. But hardly anyone wears clothes like that anymore. Maybe he was an old miner back in the day.

Miners don’t dress like that. Maybe a prospector.

What do you think would happen if we un-froze him?

He ain’t comin back to life.

Why not?

You can’t freeze someone and have ‘em come back to life. That’s science fiction.

A red-headed waitress named Rosa came over. You gentlemen finished with yer onion rings?


Driving back out to Spurry we couldn’t help wondering what would happen if he really did come back to life. When we got to the trailer we leaned him against the wall right by the space heater. Then we went back out to the woods to finish tapping the maple trees and all but forgot about him. It was dark when we returned to the trailer that evening.

Did you turn off the outside light this mornin’? asked Marty.

No. Maybe it burned out. We walked up the steps and kicked snow off our boots. Marty pulled open the outside door and then the inside door. It was dark in the trailer and there was a silhouette of a figure on the couch in front of the TV. It’s the prospector, Marty said in an excited whisper. Hello, sir! Marty said but the figure rose up and lunged at us, holding a pick-ax high above his head. I was out of there in a flash, the door slamming itself shut behind me.


Back so soon? asked Rosa when I showed up out-of-breath at Spidelda’s. I could not get a word out. Here, I’ll get you a coffee so you can warm up and tell me what happened, she said and went back behind the counter. Just then something crashed through the plate-glass window behind me. I turned to see the old prospector, still blue from the cold, with his pick in one hand and Marty’s disembodied head in the other.

Rosa pressed a shotgun into my hands. You want to do the honors? she asked. It took multiple shots to bring him down. Afterwards I stood with Rosa over the body with its frozen blue skin. The bullet holes were clean and bloodless. You know, I wish he didn’t have to die this way, I said. Rosa hugged me to her breast. You did the right thing. What’s an old prospector gonna tell us that we don’t already know?

I returned the hug and the hug turned into a passionate kiss. That night we did some serious drinking in her cabin and I found myself staring into the wild flames dancing on her hearth. I confessed to being haunted by the image of the blue-skinned prospector holding my friend’s head. Forget about them, she told me. Forget, baby. She smiled and narrowed her eyes. Come join me by the fire.




Posted in Short Story | Leave a comment