“Not yooouuu!”

My daughter Kathryn sat on the toilet, her face red with frustration. She had been yelling “Mama” at the top of her lungs, but Mama hadn’t come. Papa had come instead, and this wasn’t acceptable to her 3-year-old mind. She tottered on the edge of the toilet, her pink cotton dress pulled up, her short hair encircling her miserable face. I knew I would get nowhere with her–she is not to be reasoned with in such a mood–and I left to get her mother.Continue reading “Oweanka”

The Interpreter

They were back in the generously air-conditioned boardroom. It was a warm, sunny day outside, but all of the curtains were shut tight. She thought about the layer of air between the curtains and the windows. When there was a break she would go to the crack in the curtains, open it up and bask in the accumulated warmth.Continue reading “The Interpreter”

Dream Sequence

I had to close the door today to keep a rat from coming in.  It looked very ragged and tired and cold.  I threw a pair of shoes out the window too, because they were covered with slime.  My neighbor next door collects body parts, mostly internal organs.  He sometimes tosses them on the floor of my room when he gets the chance.  They are often covered with slime.  He threw a brain on my shoes in a slimy paper bag.  I did my best to stop him, but he threw it anyway, laughing, obviously in disbelief that it bothered me so much.Continue reading “Dream Sequence”

Cyrano of Burlington MA

Scene 1

A dingy motel room. Through the window, a sign reads in yellow and blue “The Full Moon Motel.” Below that, the red neon word “vacancy.” It blinks on and off every five seconds. Cyrano sits at a desk by the window. His coat hangs on a hook by the door opposite. He writes a letter with a quill pen and dips, writes, and blots with assiduous energy. He lifts his eyes occasionally to collect his thoughts. When he does this, one of two things happen. If he lifts his head when the vacancy sign is lit he returns its stare blankly with a vague memory of the fall of modern man and his solitary integrity. If the sign is not lit, the flat black night and the desk lamp allow him to see his own reflection in the window. He speaks as he writes.

CYRANO: My dear Roxane. [sees sign] I trust that you recall Tuesday’s spectacle. I can only say of it that human vanity knows no bounds. You sat above the crowd, and I was deeply moved by the glow of your hair, your robust autumnal cheeks, by every feature in perfect composition. I swore that I saw love in your eyes and I swore that it was for me. [sees reflection] But surely there was vanity in that, for you loved the spectacle and not the man, not such a man as me certainly, who looked the fool that night [sees sign] was made to look the fool, rather, by that man, that pompous ass (pardon my french) who all knew was in the wrong.

(He pauses, blots, rereads, crumples and, in one swift motion, opens the window, throws out the paper, and slams the window shut.)

Continue reading “Cyrano of Burlington MA”


Sadness had been like a wind, blowing the rain sideways in his face and breaking his umbrella.  There had been no help for it, and it had kept him indoors.  On sunny days, however, he had ridden his bike along the brick-covered path by his house.  The jolts had been happy jolts, soft kicks in the buttocks from the seat of his bike.  The day had been a smiling old man, nodding wisely at him.  “Nice weather for it,” it said, and when it paused to project a small bit of spittle on the pavement the sound had a happy smack.

Were his moods just like the weather?  And could the flapping wings of a Chinese butterfly cause tornadoes in Kansas?  He did not like asking this question, because he knew the answer was, “more or less, yes.”  One might think that a question and its answer could not live in close proximity to each other for long.  Questions and answers should be mortal enemies, and one should kill the other.  But when the wind and rain drove him inside, he found the two of them bickering about nothing, like an old married couple.  He found several other pairs of old married voices, bickering and retiring abruptly to their corners and spitefully cooking each other dinner.  “How do married people keep from killing each other?”  The question saddened him because he knew the answer.  “The day which had been an old man had an old dark wife named night.”

The Comedian

I found him in the gutter, a bottle of booze hanging from his lip.  He asked me for spare change, so I killed him.  It was all the spare change I could muster.  I left him in pieces in the gutter.

She asked me if I wanted to dance.  I didn’t.  So I told her a joke.  “What do you call a man with no arms and no legs in water?”  She shrugged.  “Bob,” I said.  “Ho, ho,” she said, “Is that all?  I thought you were a killer.”  So I killed her.  I slaughtered her.  I left her, robbed of breath, on the floor.

The man that came to the door wanted my time.  I couldn’t give it to him.  He insisted, so I killed him.  His convulsing body stood a long time.  I said goodbye.  But he wouldn’t leave.  He asked if he could come in.  I gave him a shot that would have leveled most men, but he pushed by me and entered my home.  He sat in one of my chairs, breathed my air, and shot it back out in foul smelling stories about the fall of the modern man and the need for his faith and his book.  He smiled.  He said he was so tired of people who wouldn’t listen.  He said I was a man with a truly open mind.

I plotted his death.  I sledged his brain with a baseball bat, but he merely chuckled.  I aimed knives at his chest, but his skin was thick.  I ranted about him, tearing out my hair.  I knocked myself out.  His mouth continued and he would not die.

So I sat, weak, as he smiled and talked, victorious in his humorlessness.  And I waited for him to leave.

The Flea

There was a stick in a stream steeped in mud, immobile and old.  There was an ordinary flea sitting on it.

The stream went under the flea on the stick slowly, and a light breeze made the leaves ruffle on a tree nearby.

There was a fish in the stream wagging its tail.  The fish was by the stick in the mud and it wagged its tail slightly to counter-act the flow of the stream.  The fine mud swirled at its tail.

There was a hovering bird in the sky.  It moved its wings against the gentle breeze.  It hovered above the stick and the flea and the fish.

This took a moment, and in a moment the bird had flown away, the fish had swum beyond the stick, and the flea was gone as if snatched away by an invisible hand.

The Rich Man’s Troupe

So you wonder how it’s possible to spend the amount of money I manage to spend. You may well wonder. I didn’t learn how to spend like this right away. It took time. One must look beyond the more mundane luxuries, first of all. Unless cars are the joy of your life, you can only buy so many of them. The same with houses. A lot of people saddled with my immense wealth would resort to spending it on things they would never use, like third world countries, presidential bids, things like that. I for one choose to get with my money things people never imagined were available, but which they would want if they heard about them. I will describe one such thing about which I am very proud.Continue reading “The Rich Man’s Troupe”

I Suggest

I suggest the image of a man and a woman.  The woman has just finished showing the man pictures of dogs, a boyfriend, an old house; and she has put the pictures away and leaned back on the bed to look at the ceiling.  The man is sitting on the bed, turned towards her, supporting himself with one arm, enjoying his angled perspective on her face.  It is midafternoon, overcast, quiet.  The uncertain light enters through a window above the bed.Continue reading “I Suggest”

The Tavern Guitar

“Stand where I am standing,” he said,
“across from the wine colored window.”
The man was full of spirits, I could tell.
I was tired from the road and in a funk,
sick of wine and, well, I thought
that I might drink his words
and by his breath get drunk.
“See?” he said, “a frosty mirth of dust
lights up the strings of this guitar.
Don’t touch! No. But linger
to observe, instead, the gentle curve,
the well-wrought head
and neck of richest virgin wood.
See the seasoned grain,
the fine nut color it retains.
Breath deep its musky air–
put your nose up close, just so,
the stench of wine is thick in here.”
I obeyed. The man seemed pleased.
Until I breathed the dusty air too much
and sneezed.

“Careful, man! Take care! for I have had it tuned.
And it is said that when the moon
is of a certain disposition,
there will approach a wandering soul
–a musician!
who will shake the strings of dust
and release the well-kept timber,
release the whole of what we know and feel
is locked inside this case of cork.
Oh, he will know his work. He must.
And what he will release, we
will capture in our ears, we
will hold inside our heads
until our very deaths rob us of its sense.
We must be careful of our breaths
around this delicate instrument.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” I said,
wiping my nose on my sleeve.
“Take no offense, but do not say we.
For before another moon has risen,
whether it be disposed to good or ill,
I must leave.”

“That is of no consequence, I think.
Now, have a swig–drink, man, drink!–but see there–
there!–the opal glimmer of the bridge
which in this stained glass tavern light
is God’s hopeful, drunken touch!”

“I do not see it,” I said, rude, sober.
“Not as such.”