If blood were orange: a pastorale interrupted

Chapter One


The first meeting of the main character is everything to a story. It was my habit to use this initial revelation as my grounding for what was to follow in every piece I wrote. In most cases the moment could always be bettered afterward with a deeper understanding of the subject as details were uncovered to put flesh on the bones of fact. But the initial frame sets the tone and mood. Like the establishing shot in a movie, it is crucial and the chance invaluable. And I was not unaware of this thought when I first met Margaret. Perhaps I was too aware. From that instant, I wanted her to be at least as much as she appeared to be. As if my life depended on it.

She was wearing a loose green flannel shirt—a dark green and very loose. And jeans. The jeans were loose too. There was not much to see there but that she was tall. After a moment I took note of the L. L Bean hunting boots and the heavy belt that brought the bulk of her shirt to an abrupt termination at her waist. I could see right there that she was not fat. Nor thin. But all that was secondary.

What I saw first, from a hundred yards away, was her hair. It is the first thing anyone would notice. Everyone does. Continue Reading →

The knight’s tale: a story of the future

  1. [Sunday, June 6, 2162]

The last dark of night stole shape and substance from the shadows beneath the pine. A first waking of birds tested the air. The muffled crack of a limb, twisted by the gentle fingering of a cool draft, and the drop of a pine cone onto the thick mat of fallen needles went unnoticed by horse or man. But another sound, no more than an insect against the first soft bluster of oncoming dawn, pestered the larger silence.

One eye opened. Through a gray wisp off the ashes of his campfire, John looked toward Rosie. Wide-eyed, she backed against her tether, snorted, and returned his stare, her ears erect and turning nervously. John slipped a hand forward in his sleepsack to his gun, shifting the clasp with his thumb. A gathering chorus of catbirds, warblers and cardinals further tattered the quiet. Calculating that the lingering dark would hide the movement, John turned his head just enough against the undermat to better hear. Rosie saw his attention and stood still. The only odor he noticed was the warm whiff of insect repellent from within the sleepsack. A pine knot, still smoldering at the center of the ashes, began to buzz like a fly. But above that faint noise, there was another sound. A vibrating. Metallic.

A drone perhaps? Continue Reading →

I imagine my salvation: a Menckenesque

Part One


1. The stolon and the radix: putting into words what cannot be said


I have learned to love Montaigne. This did not happened quickly or easily, but the affection began when I read this: “I write to keep from going mad from the contradictions I find among mankind, and to work some of those contradictions out for myself.”

These words felt true to me. Perhaps I did not always write for such a perfect cause, but at least I knew I should, and that I might as well be following in the steps of a better man.

Given my many failures, I am warned by the literary agents against writing a novel of ideas. To choose a shorter subject. Use a simpler vocabulary. Write something topical. Readers don’t care about your ideas, I am told. They want to be moved. They are only interested in what is interesting to them, which is to say, themselves.

Accepting responsibility for my deficiencies, while taking exception to the premise, I say in turn, I don’t care about such readers. Let them get up off their arses and move themselves. I care about the words and what they mean and what they might mean and what they should mean and not the mean itself. I will not be mean, but nor shall I be niggardly with my words. This is all that I am. Continue Reading →

A Faith in Dreams

Faith in dreams, like the beliefs of small and ancient religions, is often lost with the simple passage of time. Mere time. Simply forgotten. A figment of a midnight dream at midday. Too vague to grasp. We all remember the faith we once had in our fathers, or mothers, for instance. Or the absence of such an absolute trust, perhaps. But what of those other beliefs, and their failure or strength, which were so instrumental to our being and to what we would become?

There were many such smaller religions in my past–a thousand convictions which I once held dear–all of them long since lost. The sure knowledge that summer would come and school would end. That Bill, the bus driver would always be there on the colder days or wait a moment longer. That Mel, the Good Humor man would let me the extra nickel needed for the orange-cream popsicle. That the profound chill and still-hollow of a winter night would soon be transformed into the lush dark of mosquitoes and crickets and tree frogs. All of those faiths were set aside when my first full time jobs showed little interest in the seasons and getting to work in time depended on the IRT. Continue Reading →

Seeley’s Surfside

The hanging road sign for Denton Real Estate offered a constant chirping against an intermittent wind. It was a small and familiar voice to Burk as he approached Seeley’s Surfside Diner. The murmur of tires on passing cars was dampened by the new snow. With the hood of his parka pulled tight against the cold, most other sounds were obliterated by the rub of fabric against his ears and he had to keep an eye out for the car lights through breath-fogged glasses as he made his way from his apartment.

The blaze of neon from Seeley’s was not comforting against the black and white of snow and night ahead. It never was. Even on a hot evening in the summer it was joyless. Tonight, it cut through the falling snow more pink than red. Burk had thought before that it was an odd thing, how the color in the sign seemed to change depending on the weather. He had mentioned it once to Pat, but the observation was shrugged at. Ignored.

Continue Reading →

She Knows Her Onions

So this is what I know. At least what I’ve heard. The part that I think is true.

Florrie was the first guy to get a hook on Zim. This was something of a surprise, because Florrie was the last guy you’d a thought needed the help.

You know Florenz Patterson. Sure you do. But you probably know him better by the name of Gunther Grab or Forrest Fern. You’ve probably read some of his ‘Ready Evans’ stories in Black Mask. He wrote under a lot of names. There were issues of Wild West that he wrote almost single-handedly using five different monikers. Not many of the New York guys have ever been on a horse or much else west of the Poconos. Hell, Clarence Mulford even writes his ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ stories from up in Fryeburg, Maine, for Christ sake! And they are all good at making the best use of what little experience they know.

Continue Reading →

That Little Old Lady and Me

She brought me down with a two by four across the back of the knees. My head hit the doorjamb as I fell. Hard headed or not, I think I was a little dazed.

I was lying then on a black and white tile floor in the half dark of that vestibule and looking up at the mouth of a model 17, 9mm Glock semi-automatic, when I first heard that voice.


This is a single word, in common use, but has problematic spelling. When I write stories now I often just resort to familiar forms, like ‘What do you want?’ Rather than be accused of stereotyping or pandering. I was actually thinking about this while I was lying there only half conscious. I had spent the morning at my one room apartment over in Cambridge, writing and dealing with the grammatics—that’s my word for dramatic speech patterns–when Connie McGuire showed up and asked me to do him a favor. That meant he was going to screw with my regular schedule and put me on a job right away. He’s been doing that less lately so I didn’t complain. Just part of the job description. Besides, he’s short on cash because of the economy and I’m on salary anyway, so it doesn’t cost him extra to dump on me. I ran through a few more ‘grammatics’ in my head on the way over to the South End. I had to decide the way to go with the piece I was working on. It made a difference.

Continue Reading →


I don’t believe in ghosts. Any more than I believe in a tree, or a rock. What the heck does a tree care what I believe in. Why does it matter what you call a stone, unless you’re a geologist or something. I just try to live with things–as is. ‘Take them the way they are, and work on your own self,’ like Daddy said. Like you have to take Uncle Bob. It’s not going to change anything about Uncle Bob if I object to it. He’ll just get more ornery and give Mama a harder time. He’ll just ignore me, same as a rock would. You can’t argue with a stone, and Uncle Bob thinks anybody still under the age of sixteen is as dumb as a rock anyway, so what’s the use.

I’ve been watching this one ghost for a week now. He thinks I don’t see him, if he thinks about me at all. He moves up and down the stairs like he’s carrying something but I can’t see his arms. Maybe he doesn’t have any arms. But he looks busy, like he’s getting something done.

Continue Reading →

“The places that have known him, they are lost…”



A tar blister, black and shiny, bloomed from the wooden crevice of a joint in the short bridge, close to Aran’s right foot. The glister of sun on the tar caught his eye. Aran shifted his sneaker away. His grandmother would not want the tar in the house.

The bridge, lengths of wood as thick as railroad ties and darkened with creosote, joined the rusted bones of an iron trestle that crossed the wider gully of the creek more than the creek itself–spanning the red gouge and the dark run of clear water, and a lush verge of vine and brush between a corn field and a pasture.

He whispered, “Aw, shoot!” his voice muffled by the dense quiet and his breath smothered by the sun. Everything had changed. Nothing ever stayed the same long enough.

Elbows planted on top of the warmed metal of the side rail, Aran stood in partial collapse at the middle of the bridge, his palms clasped to each cheek as he stared down into the gully and studied the ruin of his plan. A single large rock, black at the center like an eye, stared back at him from the sand. Continue Reading →

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes