Saturday, November 26, 2005

"A CRUMPLED UP NAPKIN IN SERVICE OF THE FATHERLAND" is today's short-short story which, like an unexpected sparrow in your pants, will tickle, surprise and delight you to childlike laughter. The story has been inspired by the following piece by Christian Northeast, a Canadian commercial artist whose list of clients is a veritable who's who and what's what of cool in all its wondrous guises.
And just a quick little literary aside: I would be remise not to mention the amazing collection of talent found on the long-list for the Impac Dublin Literary Award, the biggest cash prize for fancy words in the world. Reading the list is tantamount to reading a short story. Or better yet, imagine it as a cross between a poem and a lottery ticket. Yes, let's be happy for their talents.

But for now sit back in your bathtub of Saturday morning coffee and enjoy...


On September the 3rd, 2004, none of this really happened on a flight from New York to Denver.

The fasten your seat-belts lights had just gone out and the captain was welcoming everyone on board flight 312 in a such a casual laid-back voice that it suggested a birthday party speech at a pool side. Almost all the passengers liberated themselves with a simple click and several stood up to rummage through their belongings in overhead compartments for no apparent reason. Smiles were exchanged as people squeezed past one another and appetites were wetted in Pavlovian style as trays were opened in anticipation of salted snacks.

None of these changes in the progress of the flight registered within the double-walled fortress of Henry Siemens' body and mind. His resolution to stand on guard (or sit on guard in this case) remained steadfast. He was on a possible vehicle for terrorists not a guest at a party at 40 thousand feet.

"Peanuts ?" a fastidious looking steward asked. Henry Siemens nodded an emotionless yes which was followed up with an even drier: "and two waters." After opening the little packet of peanuts, he inserted them into his mouth one at time ensuring that the previous peanut had been sufficiently masticated and swallowed. Every third peanut was washed down with a conservative sip of water. This regime had been learned by rote and had been practiced countless times on solid earth so that Henry's concentration could be freed up for safety surveillance.

And thank god for his vigilance for a child, two rows up from Henry on the other side of the aisle, was putting the finishing touches on a lego gun which had been assembled without anyone noticing. But Henry noticed. He put his waters and remaining peanuts on his neighbour's tray, undid his seat-belt, stood up with the full force of the law and walked over to the child while wiping the salt from his fingertips with a napkin.

"This is an inappropriate toy for a plane. Guns have their place in our God-fearing country but not here, not now," he said firmly.

The child, surprised by the unwelcomed attention, started to cry and that was when Henry stuffed the napkin in his mouth.

None of this could have happened without the love of the fatherland.

None of this true story ever took place on flight 312 or anywhere else.

Friday, November 25, 2005

"FALLING INTO A RED FRAME" is an immensely special short story loosely based on this little flyer for a student art show and sale at the Emily Carr Institute this weekend on Granville Island. The image was whipped up by Les Ramsey. I usually don't do stories based on ads but 1) this is a good cause, 2) you can get some Christmas gifts and 3) they paid me mega honkin' bucks for this sneaky promotion.


As they walk along the cracked, grimy, spit-marked sidewalk, they discuss what would make an appropriate frame for their living room. The work of art within it will follow in due time but first they must decide on the right frame; they prefer working from the outside in. You don't interior decorate in an empty lot you wait until the house is built, is the rationale they explain with impatient sighs to uncouth naysayers.

"Well I really think that cobalt blue frame - " Jeffery's opinion is interrupted by a tiny torrent of water that gushes out from a pipe at the side of a run-down two story building. Fuck ! Jeffery's hush puppies are soaked and Zack, while successfully jumping out of the way, lands on the curb of the sidewalk where he tumbles and crumples to the ground.

A gap-toothed hobo-prophet witnessing the whole comical incident shouts out: "Verily I say unto you there will come a time when theme parks will be built around moments like this. I can see even now a roller-coaster type ride with a hollowed out ceramic shell of a man in mid fall. At his foot there is a replica of a banana peel. There will come a day when you shall pay your ten dollars and be strapped into this shell of a falling man. You will experience the vicarious thrill of being a klutz for five minutes as your train of slipping men go up and down the rails of this coaster. All mistakes will have been genetically and socially engineered out of existence and you will need this ride to feel what so many people took for granted. Relish this moment !!"

And he walks on down the side-walk which has seen better days.

Jeffery and Zack exchange a knowing look of how-fucking-beautiful-was-that and they both pull out their cells in a friendly race to get to him first. "Tony, get your camera down here pronto. We need you to shoot something," Zack shouts zealousy from a sprawled position on the cigarette strewn ground. And they know that they should get that red frame and they are even more certain of what should go in it and they'll wait in these poses until they're certain the job's done.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"INCHOATE COMPLICATIONS" is an exceedingly special fast fiction based on this blast of painted fun by Mr Hooper.
So put away all of those little red and green pills which are shaped as miniature busts of Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley and all the other great drug takers of the world and enjoy...


It all began and ended within the bright, golden reflection of a dream. Sam Struthers had gone to bed on several Winter Ales and one and a half buckets of fried chicken drumsticks, breasts and legs, boosting his normal intake of daily calories by just one hundred or so, and he fell to sleep like a man falling off a cliff; he moaned and groaned until his mind splattered into unconsciousness.

On the other side, he found himself wandering through the darkened house of his childhood with drum sticks sticking out of his Lone Ranger pajama bottoms. He stood at the threshold of his parents room and peering in he saw two tombstones where the bed had once been. A fresh mound of earth stretched out from the stones which bore information not only about the lives of Sam's parents but also a thorough menu of chicken and fry combos at Lucky's Famous Fried Chicken.

Sam glided down the hallway on weightless feet sneaking glances into other bedrooms which also offered glimpses of similar indoor burials, places of rest which replaced nothing but the family members' deluxe king-sized beds, dirt entombments which did nothing to hide the king-sized girth of the Struthers.

At the end of the hall, Sam slipped at the top of the stairs on a Lone Ranger action figure who'd been doing battle with robots. (As a child Sam would take breaks from eating to play out this battle again and again.) They all stumbled and rolled around each other down the 34 steps which stretched out to hundreds until they all came tumbling down onto the sidewalk across the street from the dreamer's favorite restaurant.

The Lone Ranger, robots and owner of the fast food restaurant stood shimmering in the light of day in a conspiracy to keep Sam out; (an unconscious plea for sanity.)

And he woke up with his heart pounding.

I'm never going to eat another drumstick again, he swore to the bright light of the morning and thereupon hit the snooze button.

Five minutes later, he awoke and he pulled himself out of bed to make a greasy breakfast with no memory of his dream or life changing resolution.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

"OIL TEMPLE" is an enticingly special short-short story based on this wonderfully action-packed painting by Dan Kennedy.
Dan Kennedy


"Oh yes, oh yes there have been some real diamonds, rubies and gems out here on the road," he says through a smile which is quickly clouded behind tobacco smoke chimneyed out from his nostrils. His top hat clip-clops from side to side in tandem with his labored gait.

"What's the strangest you've come across ?" you ask in the hopes of keeping your walking journey enlivened and amusing. The landscape is mostly barren with several poplar trees denuded of green. A small bridge crossing a river is the only hint of civilization in this stretch of pastoralism. In short, you are bored, in need of entertainment.

"Well..." His eyes seem to roll back into his head to search for some long forgotten tale at the back of his brains. "There was the case of the oil which was struck in the temple of a Fitzpatrick down in South Carolina. A liter of oil a day from an inch above the end of his left eyebrow. Not much but enough to keep the tracker in his field rolling. Paradise oil everyone called it, nothing sweeter than something that's free."

He breathes heavily under the weight of his two-hundred plus pounds.

"Yet in spite of all that value that poured forth from his brow, he was a miserable son of a bitch that wouldn't give you the time of day or night."

You wait in anticipation for some unique story about this man to begin.

"He died," he sighs and walks along the path in silence.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"THE TUBER'S SUBTERRANEAN BLUES" is an almost illegally special fast fiction based on this splash of brilliance by Michael Slack.
So put away all those potato peelers you're gluing together to build a giant potato sculpture and enjoy....


"Where your body's buried, that's where I'm warm, where worms crawl in your eye sockets, that's where I'm born," Anne sang in a gruff voice while rocking back and forth in her seat. The entirety of her baked potato danced on top of her plate with her fork acting as its artificial backbone.

"Stop playing with your food," Anne's father - all two-hundred and seventy-six pounds of him - hollered from across the table. "Your mother made that with love. Show some respect."

And he threw his knife at her as an afterthought of an exclamation point. Anne ducked and slid under the table with her forked food.

In her mind this potato was a broken-down version of that bumpy-round man sitting above the table. In her hard-hearted heart of hearts she hated her father. She believed that he was a potato who had grown slowly and painfully into a man. She sometimes thought she heard him whispering in the strange, ugly tongue of potatoes.

Under the table she curled up, bit her arm and wondered what percentage of her body was made up of potatoes.

Monday, November 21, 2005

"STIGMATA BLUES AND BLACKS" is an enormously special fast fiction based on this painting by Joseph Daniel Fiedler.


Battered black and blue, little Tommy ran into the living-room balling his eyes and tear ducts out.

"Good Lord," exclaimed the new neighbors who'd been invited over for a friendly little pow-wow of "where-you-from"s and "how-you-like-the-neighorhood"s.

Tommy's mother slowly got to her feet and took her wreckage of a child into the bathroom for some ointments, ice-packs and aspirins. The usual routine of going through diminishing first-aid supplies that had become second-aid, third-aid and was now at the umpteenth-aid stage.

The new neighbors were left in a state of shock over being thrust into the role of witnesses to some kind of beating. The casualness of the parents terrified them all the more.

"Oh yeah, well Tommy gets these mysterious bruises. Turns out he's getting the bruises of a Mexican pro wrestler who himself had been the vessel of some kind of stigmata of Christ. I mean that's what the medium said. If you believe in that kind of stuff." He took a sip from his coffee and continued with the previous conversation, "So Karl what did you do in Cincinnati?"

It took him 54 seconds to respond.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

"MOBIUS STRIPPER" is an almost impossibly special fast fiction based on the brilliance of Joseph Hart, an American artist whose work combines spiral-graph geometries with spiritual taxonomies. In other words, painterly magic.
So put away your delux lego edition of MC Escher's Ascending and Descending and enjoy...


With her mind firmly focused on the ancients spiral-graphing constellations in the sky, she starts to slide the sleeves of her black top off her supple arms. Flesh emerges like a welcomed sunrise. But while she dances and spins her mind is the needle of a protractor, holding her in a place of origins, a singular beginning which emerged out of opposites and impossiblities. A something out of nothing.

And she strips and strips and strips, shedding layer after layer of clothing but total nudity is never reached.

"A fucking parlor trick !" a man in gynecological row mumbles.

But she continues to tease the majority of the crowd who are hopeful that she will slip up and expose something more. For her part, she remains intently focused on a meditation of origins which allows her to achieve the impossible.

She holds a mythic landscape in her mind like an Indian forehead holds a jewel.

Teasing out an impossibility as the music pumps away.