STORIES #11 ~ #20

These stories are inspired by the 100 Days project film clips of John Timmons’ (corresponding clips are linked below each title) and each is in response to his own daily piece or that of one of the other participants.

Note: only the most current stories are accessible, to secure the text and particularly, the images from being nabbed by and displayed on public sites.  If you would like to read some of the stories that are here, simply email me at for the password.




You left. I sat and wrote:

Forever is a wisp, a whim, a word made up by poets, theologians, those who need an oak.

Forever, abused by storytellers in the happily ever after, disserves the innocence of childhood.

Forever claims a certainty it does not possess. So too, always, ever, and their nemesis, The Raven’s nevermore.

Forever in its Sunday best is mere illusion. Dressed, it seems, for appearances’ sake alone.

The only real forever then is gone. Then again, replication may be an antidote, since

So long as ye both shall live is but a subtle loophole. An honest attempt at realism loopholed in turn by procreation. And so…

I like now. Now is something I can get into, push my arms through, stick my hands inside its pockets. Now lets me pull nice memories off of shelves. Now allows for pause, reflection, brings a smile that curves around and closes like a bubble, a globe sent soaring into a green summer breeze.

What happened yesterday is far away. In my mind it might not have even happened. Now is waiting to be tasted like a strawberry that still holds the sun within sweet flesh. Now is here but in the flutter of a feather, the tick of a movement,

Now too, is gone.



(thank you)

So what. So what. This is what she wanted, right? Here it is: Commencement Day. All six hundred of us dressed in black. Must mean something.

Dude next to me is playing with his iPhone. Look at him, so cool. Probably texting daddy to book time at the condo down at Hilton Head.

Doesn’t matter. He’s him and I’m me. He’s–rather, he will be–a corp exec type and I’m, well, I’m a garbageman. That’s what brought me food money for four years and that’s the only full time job offer I’ve gotten. Doesn’t matter.

Yeah, right, Mr. Bigshot University Graduation Speaker, I’ve got the whole world open-armed and waiting for me to toss this stupid mortarboard up into space and head into a life of everything I’ve ever wanted. Or she wanted. Well what the fuck, she’s in the hospital dying and she’ll be proud to know that her son graduated college and then she’ll just stop breathing. She’ll die happy like she always wanted. She won’t have to read the rest of the book. She won’t know how it ends.

This dude ain’t listening to a word the bigshot’s saying. Well, he doesn’t have to. He’s got his life lined up. He pokes me in the ribs. Shit, he’s watching porn!

“Yeah, sweet,” I say. It’s his girlfriend who couldn’t be here because she’s waiting for him somewhere more important. I recognize her face. Nice tits though. He pokes me again with an elbow, holds the phone so I can see her. “Yeah,” I nod and grin. Dude doesn’t give a shit about nothing. He wouldn’t even care that I fucked his sister. At a party. His friends were always having parties. I was there because I brought the bennies.

Wonder if I could use his phone to shoot a photo to her. No, I’ll just go see her with the cap and gown. Somehow Ma and his girlfriend shouldn’t be on the same phone.

We get up, six hundred people in sync with each other, all equal, all standing on the same threshold and ready to charge. Yeah. One by one we scuttle up to the stage, climb up for that one moment of glory and I’m sweatin’ it out because there’s nobody here to clap for me. I plan to run into the applause hanging for the guy ahead of me, and then slow to saunter when the Dude’s name is called. He pokes me in the center of my spine, holds out his phone. She’s licking the screen.

It’s all over and I’m back down in my seat and I don’t remember if anyone applauded or not.

Dude’s yawning through the last speech. Almost done. All done. Five hundred ninety-nine hats take flight. I watch them spin, tassels flashing. I gotta go see my mama.



(pretty things)

This morning I crawled out of the purple velvet of an iris. The sun struck through the window, woke me, sent a soft handed breeze to wind up the birds to chatter, twitter, sing to one another in innocent surprise. It’s inspiring to see their amazement that dawn comes every day.

I don’t sing; I fill the coffee pot. My husband is awake, coming down the stairs to the symphony of whooshing water through the pipes.

“Good morning!” I chirrup in my best cardinal style.

“Hi,” he says. “Sleep well?” It carries the slightest tinge of sarcasm. A hint of hope. He pours coffee into the “HIS” mug I hand him without looking at me.

“Very well,” I say. “My back is still a bit stiff though.”

“That’s from sleeping in the flowers. I don’t know why you do that.” He still doesn’t look at me. I think he thinks I do not want to sleep with him. He may be angry. He may be hurt.

“No, it’s from the gardening yesterday. The bending.”

“You can’t sleep comfortably in a flower.”

“The iris was very comfortable,” I insist. “It has layers that let you snuggle in between or stretch out on the petals. The beard is soft and fluffy like a feather pillow.” I want to invite him in, I want to. But he is so large. Six feet tall and likely two hundred pounds. Their stalks–of even the sturdy iris–I fear would not support him. Besides, I don’t think he’s willing.

I pop two English muffin halves in the toaster, set to “9” because he likes them toasted really dark. I don’t. “Are you going to mow tonight?” I ask. I want to warn the grass. It’s better off knowing, I would think, and can prepare for the whirring blades and noise.

“I was planning on it. Is there enough gas? Can you check and get some if there isn’t?” he says.

“Sure,” I answer. The power has drifted back to me. But yes, I know I’ll check and refill the gas container if need be. Sometimes you have to give a little to get along.



(south by southwest)

The news is seven years old yet it hits her with the impact of the present, of that moment between the last breath and none. She reads the words over again. DOB. DOD. Dates run through her mind as she tries to wrap her head around it. She spends the day on the silk threads of the web looking for flies. A tidbit of information that tells her what she couldn’t have known. She feels the inevitable narcissism that death draws out of all of us, the need to personalize; what was she doing the day that he died?

She learns that he never got married again, after his first wife and child, after her. That he left bills owing for a two month stay at a rehab. Three weeks after that, he died. What then, an accident? She tries to imagine him in a hospital bed but he stands wearing cutoffs and a goofy grin on the flying bridge of his yacht.

A sadness seeps into her day, into her dinners, her laundry, her nights. She is alone with this in the midst of a husband and home. She moves on to others, the array of information teaching something technical about dates; dates based on source of data rather than reality. She learns to start checking two days before date of newspaper notice, two days after the social security index says is the real date of loss. Then local papers online and she’s finding them, finding them all. In two days she’s come up with five dead past lovers. All gone in the last seven years. She cannot seem to place them in caskets but easily recalls him sucking her toe, the Dartmouth roll of another, one’s profile against motel lights.

On each online paper’s first page is the same news of oil gushing, surfacing, hanging like seaweed on the waves riding into the shores. What it will cost in dollars and dead birds and oysters. Did the news of the Great Chicago Fire blare the same headlines then? Did it leave people hollow inside if they really did think about it? How do we react to it now? She wondered. World War declared; can it bring the same fear, set the heart racing all these years later? Catastrophic events have a forever effect on the future. It will change life from that moment on but the news that has happened can never be seen the same way as in that instant of happening.

Yet when a long ago lover dies, at the moment it is discovered, the shock is immediate, current, the grieving as fresh as the morning. And the time in between becomes meaningless she thinks, for not knowing is not quite the same as gone.




Ethan remembered it vividly, falling down the stairs at his grandfather’s house. He was four years old. He remembered the sensation of tumbling, of rolling down a grassy slope staggered with rocks. He could still see the people, his father’s face angry, his mother in panicky tears. It left its mark on more than memory; it left him with a limp and an unnatural fear of heights.

Something was going on at the office, at the higher levels on the floor above. Ethan had worked his way up through the company for twenty-three years. He was looking at the next step, a vice presidency, when the global world deflated in the great Wall Street blunder and he balanced precariously on one leg. Every morning the elevator hummed a tune he grew uncomfortably familiar with, like a march off to war song from a movie, or on the really bad days like Friday mornings, the lone trumpet playing taps.

Then the day came when the company overhauled itself in a grand show of intent, lopping heads like Huns riding horseback through a village of terrified peasants. Ethan ducked, almost losing his footing but somehow, Ethan remained.

For a while. He spent another year limboing under the wires. Another year listening to elevator music that roiled his guts then landed him in a thump at the next to top floor, spitting him out like a watermelon seed at a picnic.

On a slow-moving Monday Ethan was called upstairs to the executive suites. He swooped up the short ride to the top floor. He felt confident in the ascension. Fifteen minutes later he stood at the top of the stairwell looking down into the recess, the progression of floors marked by turns like a badly set broken leg. He giggled and tucked himself into a ball and rolled, bouncing off walls, all the way to the bottom.




They were lost to me now, the phone calls unanswered. Chance turns its back on rejection and moves along with the flight of the moon.

The call light blinks in single red-eyed insistence, a lifeline that snakes underground, over trees, invisibly blown by the wind from a whisper to an unready ear. It’s him and I know what I told him, my voice light with surprise, caught off-guard. “That’d be great,” I had said. Lied? No, probably said since I didn’t really have time to plan my reply and I’m not especially quick-witted. That makes it worse I suppose.

I press the call button, rewind the tape back to his hesitant Hi. He says his full name, aware now that I do not live here alone. His voice is that of solicitor, salesman, just on the fine edge of seducer. He is all of these things. I’d appreciate a callback, he says, and the number curls out clear and slow from lips I remember as fringed with a mustache.

The tape repeats three more times while I open a bottle of wine. White, his favorite. Or was that someone else’s? It doesn’t matter; he won’t be here to contradict his own memory. The wine is fruity yet sharp. Snappy like the crisp burst of a grape cut by a bite.

By early evening I am floating in a bubble that separates me from the world I have spent years creating. I know he won’t call back again, his ego his guardian angel. Headlights shine through the dark living room, slide down the wall. Kyle is home from a late night at the office. The sound of the garage door coming down is the point where I know that it’s over, again. That I will someday read his name in the notices of the newspaper and think that I should have picked up the phone. And I’ll wonder what I would have said.



(great moments in cinema #61)

I am the background noise to his living. He is the snore that means I am not alone.

“Did you get my suit back from the cleaners?” he asks. He means “Are you still in service to me and taking care of my needs. The little things that are too mundane for me to worry about. That’s your job.

“Yes,” I say. I mean, “I did my job. I realize that it’s your money that paid to get the suit cleaned, the gas to get to the cleaner, the freakin’ suit itself.

“I’ll be leaving first thing in the morning and won’t be back until Friday,” he says. He is telling me, “If you didn’t pick it up yet, you only have today to do so.”

“I have it,” I tell him.

“Have what?” he says.



(please concentrate on the green dot)

“Focus, focus,” said the voice behind the fat finger moving in front of my eyes. “Focus,” my mother repeated, warning no boy would ever look at a girl with an eyepatch the doctor said would cure lazy-eye. I was thinking, cool, pirate, but I went home and exercised my eye back into obedience.

“Reach, reach!” for the brass ring, my father called out to me. But I feared I’d fall off the standing-still horse on the moving merry-go-round. Later, sent to summer camp where I tried to fit in, the instructor told me to “Aim, aim!” for the bullseye. I stared at the kill zone, the tiny black dot on the target with mind, eye, and fingers all working together, sending arrows to slice open the heart.

“Concentrate,” the algebra teacher reminded, breaking the silence of a room full of brains working through formulas plus one left hand seeking answers through pages of a book concealed on his seat. I concentrated, avoiding the left and right angles that whispered I’d never need this to survive and I got an A minus in Algebra. I’ve never needed it since and that’s good since I don’t remember it now.

“Take this,” said a handful of colorful pills. “Hold it in,” said a curl of blue smoke. And I did and I did and the world still whirled around me just out of reach while I wandered and let it then stumbled back to the trail, damaged somehow in the trials.

There were lovers and moments of love though nothing would last. Like words spoken in passion, rage or exquisite delight, everything blew by, caught on a fencepost, flew on when hit with a storm.

Still watching ahead and avoiding the edges where a hundred feet dance and tambourines jingle and drums beat to rhythms I could never quite catch, I moved through it. Life passed in kaleidoscope patterns and the pieces fell into place and were repeated, repeated in shattering colors, but now…

In the quiet white space transected by beeping lines and monitor blips that are just out of view, I focus. My hands are weighted like stones on the sheets. My legs are so distant they don’t feel a part of me. My feet are shrouded in white and so far away I don’t think they can hear me. I give up making them move. I focus on the space that as always, seems just out of my grasp, that gaping void beyond life. Something is there, I can see it. I hear it. A tinkle of glass like a wind chime whispering in summer, an arc of white light, teasing and taunting. Yet somehow I understand I will reach this. I focus. I focus and wait.

(First Publication rights to The Influence of Peripheral Vision on Focus belong to Microw, Winter 2010)



(2 x 2)

“Are these your parents?” Alisa had asked me. She held the small silver frame in her hand, studying the photo as if she were reading a book.

“Yes,” I said.

“They don’t look like you,” she had said. She stared hard at the image, looked up to me briefly and back.

I went over and looked at the couple who sat smiling at the camera, their hair swept by sea breeze, my mom in her old white cardigan and Dad with his pipe. “This was taken at the Cape,” I said. “About four years ago. We used to go up there every summer. They had a place in the bay. It’s sold now.” I took the frame from her and placed it back on the mantel. “I think this is the last photo taken of them together.”

She looked at me, a quizzical look that I took to mean that I had to explain. “My mother died of ovarian cancer later that year and my Dad of a heart attack within a year later.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she’d said. But looking back on it now, there was still that odd look on her face. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” she asked.

After dinner I pulled out the album, “That’s the cottage on the Cape,” I said. She sat with the album on her lap, pointing out people and asking their names, who they were in my life. It was eleven by the time we had finished our wine and she yawned, thanked me and left.

Alisa had just moved in downstairs. I was excited by the prospect of having a new friend in this building where the others were all elderly. A safe place for a teacher, I’d thought at the time. Well, yes, it had been quiet and safe. She told me she’d come from Ohio, her mother and father still out there, the only family she had. She got a job as a secretary downtown, and she took the bus in every morning. I teach in an elementary school on the outskirts so we had different directions, different working hours. We’d get together on the weekends, go to movies, restaurants, shopping, while I got her familiar with the neighborhood. We’d eat in sometimes, always at my place, not hers. I never questioned why, though I offered her some of my extra tables and chairs and pots and things in case that was the reason.

Alisa had been there about four months when on a Sunday I knocked on her door, needing to borrow some butter. And really, hoping to sit down and share morning coffee. She looked both scared and bold, holding the door open just wide enough to poke her head out.

“I’m in the middle of baking a chocolate layer cake and I ran out of butter for frosting,” I said. “Do you have a stick I can borrow?”

“No,” she said. “Sorry.”

“Well, I suppose I could check with Mrs. D’Amico on the top floor. Do you want to come over later? The cake’s just out of craving, no company coming.”

“No. Thanks. Sorry,” she said. The door was pushed shut.

That was the beginning of what I see now was a withdrawal. That following weekend she was busy or didn’t answer the phone–I knew she was home. And it ran on that way until I stopped asking. I’d see her in the hall now and then, and she’d say hello and quickly retreat. She did have other friends visiting, so I guessed she simply didn’t care to spend time with me. That was okay, though I thought it would’ve been nice to have someone there who could at least sing along to Bon Jovi.

Then one day I woke up to see a flash of her hair in a U-Haul truck pulling away from the curb. I dressed and went down to knock on her door. It was ajar and gave to my knock. The rooms were empty with that hollow sound of life having lived there and left. I shouldn’t have but I did walk through the whole place, looking inside cupboards and closets. In a corner of the bedroom closet I found photographs of people laughing and happy. A family, it looked like, though I didn’t recognize any of the children to definitely be Alisa. I left the photos on the counter in the kitchen and went back upstairs.

Something made me pull out my album, the one I had shown her that first day she came over for dinner. I flipped through the pages, faster as I went through, counting the empty spaces and trying to recall which pictures were missing.



(perspective 2)

I’ve always felt that if you follow the lines you create in life you spread out in a shotgun pattern scattered like dust on the horizon. Look backward, and the convergence of threads begins at a single point, likely in time just as in space. We all started here; we’re all bursting forward to form an image like pixels gathering in team effort. Only I am a pixel that bounces around so that in the grand final image I am a nervous tic of the eye.

To the left and right of me people are close and grow farther apart as they seek out their own spot in the picture. They are warm colors like tangerines and peaches, perhaps to end up in the cheek of some greater god. They are cool blue glints in his eye. They are ashen black shadows that hide in the crevices, the wrinkles, the folded curve of an ear.

I look back to the vanishing point of the past. Everything that once was is done. There are lines to hold onto until, separated by an enth of a degree, they are no longer reachable, shot off into directions like meteor spray. That small bit of off-track, that negligible veering, that decision that didn’t seem much at all, become space travelers in search of the universe. That face we all want to become.

And here I am at the end point of moving forward, changing not only from hamburg to spareribs for dinner, the decision inalterable–though repeated perhaps–the future becomes just a small flicker of grin in the end.


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