Saturday, November 19, 2011


Here is another story from long ago (30+ years). I recall being energized by the range of authors I was reading, beyond those assigned in English class. Barth, Barthelme, Pynchon--these were my heroes at the time. Now, years later, I still get a tremendous kick from their work.

Frank looked up at the red plastic sword stuck through the olive on his plate. it was a green olive, and it was stuffed with pimento. he did not like green olives. he did not like green olives stuffed with pimento, either. He was rather fond of black olives, though.

"Goodbye, he said," he said to the cashier, as he paid the bill. It was from something he had read.

When he arrived at his apartment, it was dark. Frank took off his jacket and went into the kitchen. He was quite hungry. On the way to the refrigerator, he tripped on something. Switching on the headlights, he saw that it was one of Mrs. Fitzpatrick's shoes. He had forgotten to repair them, and she was supposed to recharge them that night.

"Damn it, son, what's gotten into you?" asked the chunk of Camembert on the table.

"Shut up, you!" Frank said, as he pinned the bit of cheese to the table with a steak knife. The Camembert screamed. Justifiably.

Frank went to Mrs. Fitzpatrick's apartment. It is on another floor, Frank thought, as he stood at the door with her shoes. He rang the doorbell, and she answered.

"Here are your shoes. I am sorry I did not fix them."

"Never mind," she said. "I picked up some enamel on the way home so I could fix them myself."

"Ah!" noted Frank, realizing her intelligence. "It seems to transcend granite," he added.

"Verily," she replied. 

The door shut.

Frank walked back to his apartment. He decided to take the elevator. He pressed a white button. It lit up. There was a plastic palm tree in a yellow vase beside the elevator. There was dust on the artificial plant. The elevator answered. Frank said nothing. Justifiably. What was there to say?

Frank went into his apartment and turned on the fog-lights, in addition to the standard headlights.

What was that? Frank listened intensely. It was the water-floss in the bathroom, chattering away to itself. Frank resolved to put a quick stop to it. This he did quite effectively by tying a knot in the rubber hose running from its base to the transparent tube at its tip. It had been determined to put up a fight, writhing about. 

In agony, no less. 

Frank knew it was finished when the the rubber hose burst.

He went into the living room and decided to think on the sofa. He thought (about it) and slept.

On the lawn, the ceramic donkey brayed loudly, while the sea horse with pink scales swam convincingly about the blue-mirrored ball on its concrete stand. Don Pedro's sombrero was peeling, but no matter. There was much work to be done. Tractor tires could always be painted white and buried (halfway) on either side of the mailbox. There was always room for another weathervane. (Perhaps the one at Henning's Garden City...Yes, that one...No, no, no, not that one...Not the one with the carved sailor harpooning Moby Dick, either...the one with the little milkmaid in the yellow frock and the cow...It's quite a handsome cow, actually...Tan and white...It would add a kind of domestic dignity, don't you think?...Yes...Yes...Yes?...Yes, it does portray the clean way of life...Universal husbandry!...I know that...Tomorrow...Tomorrow, I'll take Santa's rocket ship off the roof...Because the wiring's tricky!...Whatever happened to those space helmets we had for the reindeer?...What?...Just tell her that if her pooch tries to rust our cast-iron geese again, I'll have it stuffed...I know they're close to the property line...Because that's where I want them...They look fine there...I don't feel like explaining it any further...I just want them there, so it looks as thought they're thirsty and going for a drink, which not only explains the goldfish pond, but that Rumplestiltskin with the watering can...Rumplestiltskin certainly did have a white beard!...The hell he did!...I'm leaving!...You've got another thing coming if you think all elves wore cute little slippers with bells at the toes!

Click goes a tape recorder (somewhere).

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I wrote the following story many years ago. 33 years ago, in fact. I was in high school and had discovered the metafiction pastiches of Donald Barthelme. I can see his influence—and Beckett's—in this particular piece, but I like to think there is something of the off-center slant that continues in my current work. 

"For Godsakes, grow up, Wulfhund."

"Easier said than done. Easier to articulate than activate."

They argue as to whether Hitler had charisma or not."

"He could gesticulate. But arbitrate? I think not."

"Some can, some can't. Some will, some won't."

"Some do, some don't?"

"---- ---."

"And what do we do? Who are we?"

"Who aren't we?" replied Wulfhund, marking the trousers with quick, deft strokes of the tailor's chalk. "We don't make money, and we don't spit teeth."

Wulfhund and Jeremy have acquired a reputation and all of its trappings: identity crises, misplaced change, dust.

Sometimes they rifle through cigarette machines, seeking slug coins. They no longer mark trousers, adjust hems; instead, they drive on the turnpike in Jeremy's Rambler, trying to "...consolidate..." things.

Themselves. They stay in Holiday Inns, thinking about who they aren't, about owning a hunting lodge on Baffin Island. A place where they "...could hunt polar bears with machine-guns..."

Now they watch television at a Quality Motor Inn. But, as Wulfhund has seen Death of a Salesman, they know that "...failure's waitin' 'round the bend..."

"But what will we fail at?"

"What won't we fail at?"


"                ;         ,               ,                         ."

The television is still on and the sink and bathtub have overflowed and are running onto the orange-and-ochre shag rug and

Wulfhund brushes lint from his beret on a PanAm flight to Dublin.

Taking pictures in profusion. Kodak Brownie, dated Leica, assorted lenses.

Shot of cobblestones. Shot of cat. Shot of newspaper vendor. Shot of newspaper. Shot of newspaper against sky. Shot of Jeremy gesticulating obscenely.

Wulfhund and Jeremy bum a lift to Londonderry. Purpose: " take artsie shots..." This they do without hesitation.

Shot of rusting Mini Morris. Shot of shoe reflected in hubcap. Cheap shot of Jeremy sprawled on street, doused with ketchup. Shot of doorstep.

They seek bombings, wishing " portray the guts and steel..."

Jeremy books them a room in the Hotel Viscount.

The television is on, and Jeremy puts an edge on his scimitar; Wulfhund mounts a flashlight on his .22 with black electrician's tape. An I Love Lucy rerun comes on the television, and they look at the set and then at each other.

Jeremy: Do you remember the time little Ricky played the drums and sang "Babaloo"?

Wulfhund: No.