cruel and funny

   And the bane of my existence as a fiction writer has been suffering the jokes and japes of colleagues, friends and family who point out the obvious challenge confronting a writer with my background. Oh, your writing’s a cure for insomnia is it? 

   Needless to say I stopped bringing up the topic of my fiction a long time ago. I also stopped writing under my own name. This blog was originally intended as a place to find the perfect pseudonym to write under but I had so much fun assuming different identities that I started pretending I was well-established writers along with other people in the public eye. Now I’m being threatened with a number of lawsuits and so I have to officially announce the truth:

   My name is George Tannenbaum. 

   I hope you enjoy today’s story…



Arms Entangled in Glory


     The game of twister has gone too far. Tim pulls at his left arm which is trapped somewhere between Heather and Susan. His other limbs are no better off. Heather tugs at her right leg which is braced between Tom and Tammy. All the rest of her limbs are likewise preoccupied. Susan can’t move her arms which are plugged in between Tim and Tom. Oh, it’s a nightmare entanglement of everything. “ Does anyone have a free arm?” someone with a level head finally asks.  As there’s no eye-contact upon which to guide communication, there’s a jumble of responses which communicates nothing but confusion. Tom shouts above the noise to get silence. “Okay we’re not going to get anywhere with this noise. We’ve got to set up some rules. Otherwise we’ll never get out of this bind.” Someone starts to cry loudly and everyone feels the shudder of her weeping body. “I have a cheerleading practice at seven,” she blubbers.  “Crying’s not going help,” Tom shouts. “Let her get it out of her system,” Tim, deep beneath the pile of friends, shouts back. Tom and Tim exchange opinions which in the frustration of the situation turns heated. It’s a horrible first evening for everyone. They fall asleep one by one late in the night with promises of a better world tomorrow.

   The next morning Heather wakes up to the sunrise peering in through the living-room windows. With her cheek pressed against Susan’s back she is forced to see nothing but the sunset. There’s a kink in her neck and she rocks her head gently back and forth so as not to wake up Susan. She notices the rise and bloom of the sun. She’s never seen anything like this before. “Now I wake up in wonderment,” she thinks (she’s an English Lit major) “but over the next couple of days, as we will be forced to deal with hunger and other unpleasant bodily functions, what will I think of this sunset then? Will it become an emblem of oppression? Will I end up hating the sun and forever after seek refuge in a cave? Will we be found in time?” And so writes out her thoughts in a diary  that she shimmies out of her pocket. A pen is retrieved in the same way. 

    That’s how I came to know their story and the 32 days of horror that they suffered through bickering over Milton Bradley’s liability, (but they did break the rules of playing with more than four), the nature of the universe – a globe, a sphere, a cluttered mass, the nature of man – good, bad or indifferent and when their skeletons were found in a heap of bones by their concerned landlord, I was called in to investigate their situation. 

     And now months later I wander the streets telling strangers the tale of the entangled teens. Some days I’m optimistic: insofar as none of them lost that game, they all won. But what a horrible victory.


   It’s embarrassing but true. I woke up this morning to a murder of crows cawing up a storm. I looked at my alarm and saw that it was five minutes to wake up time anyway so I rolled out of bed. There was a sudden silence and then the sound of a car taking off. I imagined the crows breaking into a neighbor’s car and taking it for a joy-ride. I chuckled to myself at this little cartoon in my head when I stood up and then fell over. I looked down and saw that my feet were missing. (I’ve been fighting a brutal cold and took three helpings of neo-citroen last night. I guess it had numbed my body completely.) 

   I knew I should have gone to bed with the lower half of my body safely stowed away in a safe. That’s the advice I would give to you. 

   But the show must go on in spite of the missing feet – as showbiz cripples often say – and so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here’s today’s short-short story…


In the Award Winning Hereafter


    John and Tina entered the Silver Stars Senior Citizens Talent Contest with some minor bickering. John had written on the entry forms that Tina was 65 when in fact she was 64. “I don’t qualify,” she insisted while John dug through her closet of shoes, looking for her Middle Eastern-looking slippers. “It’s a cute bit. The folks’ll love it, Tina.” He stepped out from her closet with her shoes and a large smile that lifted his aging face. Not since the birth of their grand-daughter had Tina seen him looking so spry.  

    “Okay but on one condition.”

    “You name it.”

    “If we win the prize money goes to Iraqi orphans.”

     John nodded vigorously and his glasses slid down his nose. 

    That night, John and Tina wowed the audience of 87 seniors with their homey yet eclectic rendition of Aladdin’s “Whole New World” but midway through a “world” they both toppled off the edge of the stage, landing on their heads. A chorus of worried gasps rushed through the crowd. Hands went to mouths. One senior pulled out his cell-phone to call his paramedic granddaughter. Three seniors- fearing that the grim reaper was in their midst – left the auditorium, grabbed some free quarter-sliced sandwiches and fled the building. 

     For their part, John and Tina continued dancing into the afterlife, assuming the fall was all part of the rush of the performance. They spun, waltzed and jitter-bugged into heaven assuming it was still just the backdrop to their song. God, for once in his life feeling bad about a mishap on earth, decided to pretend it was a Muslim heaven. His angels were dispatched with Muslim garb to give all the Christian residents in the event that John and Tina should dance through their quarter. “Otherwise, business as usual,” God announced.

   And so it went for John and Tina for eternity.

   A whole new world.

    xprmnt alwyz n nevr stop th attmpt to kreate sumthng new this has bn th point of my 70 books of poetry n now th site yer eyes r winding throu alwyz turning identities into taktile sumthings, a groop of people to party with perhps, meening twistd arownd nw spellings to new momnt of you

    ive xperimneted stroumboulouboulopoulis styl wth peepole im knot 




Would You Rather I Write You a Love Poem or Clean the Bathroom?


    Gabriel and Gretta hug their last goodbyes to the bride and groom and walk ten minutes under the crescent moon to the Howard Johnston Hotel. “Aren’t these wedding favors cute?” Gabriel says, holding up a miniature wedding contraption. Gretta is looking up at the moon and says, “Are they ever,” but to be honest neither of them know what these little devices are. The bride is an engineer and the groom is an avant-guard sculptor and so there may or may not be some use to the little mechanical doodad in Gabriel’s warm hand. “I’ll never forget the time I made a volcano for a science fare,” Gabriel explains and tries to turn three or four memories into an interesting story. Gretta remains distracted by the moon.

   Once inside their hotel room, Gabriel lands with a bounce on the king sized bed. Gretta goes into the bathroom. “What’s on your mind, Gretta?” Gabriel says loudly, finding intimacy easier at a distance. He gets up and opens the curtains to reveal the half-moon. If he carried a half-disc in his pocket he could always create a full moon he thinks and wonders why he isn’t an avant-guard artist. He’s a little drunk. He goes back to the bed but then thinks better and closes the curtain. They’ve never once made love by an uncurtained window.

   “I’m thinking about somebody who made something for me a long time ago.” She comes out from the bathroom with a glass of water and sets it by the night-stand.

    “And who was this somebody?” Gabriel asks, smiling.

    “It was somebody I knew in Ireland.” She stretches out on the bed.

    The smile drops from his lips. A vague anger sloshes back and forth somewhere in his body. His lust is in tangles.

     “You were in love with him?” he asks ironically.

     “It was a boy named Michael Jordan. A short, little Irish boy. He built this contraption for me. Something made out of computer parts and monitors and it was definitely strange but he said that it would do everything I needed. It was a joke of course and he was such a nerd – really awkward – and there was no way I was interested in him but then the contraption fell on him the day before the science fair. It kept asking one question while it was laying on his little crushed body.”

    She weeps into her open hands and the previous accumulation of feelings flee Gabriel’s body. He struggles to find the right words to say.

   Over the past five months I’ve been writing a short-short story everyday on this blog. Today however is the end of the line. I’ve been writing this blog as a place to test some of ideas about what makes and what doesn’t make a site suck.  There are some good features on this blog and some not so good features. There’s a continuous theme of somebody admitting they are the real individual behind this blog which might be interesting or annoying depending on your tolerance for ambiguity and this is followed by a different kind of story everyday. That’s the overall concept of the blog but there are few visuals and the layout is quite simple. But what do you think? In the next six days, I’m going to ask you to provide any feedback you might have in the comment section below. The person providing the best feedback for the blog will be mailed a collection of short-short stories, Fast Fictions. It usually goes for 10 bucks so this is a nifty little offer. 

  And here’s today’s short-short story…



Killing Someone is Harder than You Think


   Wednesday evening, in the kitchen, she teaspoons out two helpings of the poison into his glass of water. Upstairs the toilet flushes and she quickly stirs the crystals until they dissolve into an apparent absence. After this she tosses the spoon into the sink where it clanks a couple times but she thinks better and picks it up to rinse it under hot water.

   “Deep cleaning the spoon?” he yawns as he passes to pick up his glass of water.

    “You can never be to sure,” she smiles but he’s not listening to her. He’s sleep walking his well-worn path to bed. In the morning he needs to get a head start on his marketing strategy for the Flecher account but all that work is safely stowed away at the back of his mind. He can’t afford to think about anything right now. 

    In the bedroom he places the glass of water on the nightstand, folds his clothes into a neat pile – next to Thursday’s pile – and slips into bed without messing up the sheets. He breathes in through his nostrils and breathes out through his mouth. He falls asleep.

    In the middle of the night, however, he wakes up to a lopsided duvet. She’s been having a fitful night of anxiety and half-nightmares and the sheets have rippled out waves of worry. He gets up to go to the toilet and when he gets back into bed he gives the sheets a shake but the edge of the duvet knocks over his untouched glass of water which falls onto the alarm-radio knocking some of its transistors out of commission. What he notices is that Thursday’s pile of clothes is soaked. The digital time display reads 4:22. He’ll clean it up in the morning.

    But in the morning, the alarm fails to go and he sleeps in until nine. He arrives late for work with no ideas and loses the account. At twelve o’clock he punches the bathroom wall but in the mirror he can’t believe his pose. Who cares? something inside him whispers and his organized mind reshuffles all the days and weeks and years that have led to this juvenile outburst. For twelve years he’s been working too hard. On his lunch break he goes home to burst into her afternoon routine. What was she worried about that led to such a horrible sleep?  He swings open the front door to surprise her with a bouquet of flame-tipped lilies and roses but she’s on a ladder in the foyer changing a bulb on the chandelier. The door knocks over the ladder and her head lands on the edge of a table. 

   At her funeral, he cries that it was one of her unknown, late-night fears that brought him back to life. 

   When I was a boy, I had a teacher named Mr. Zuckermann whose calling in life was to correct the wrong-headed ambitions of his students. At the age of eight or nine I had one hankering for the future: I wanted to write. Mr. Zuckermann took it upon himself to help me amend my dreams. He listed a litany of miserable vices that accompanied the lives of most writers and he emphasized how they were the lucky ones. He slammed his large hand on the black board and asked me if that’s really what I wanted. 

    “I want to write,” I said in an epicenter of silence that had to be the most defining moment of my life. Mr. Zuckermann, stunned by my tenacity, gave up on me and turned back to the topic of the American Revolution. I don’t remember what got us so far off topic but that was the pedagogy practiced by Mr. Zuckerman. From 1776 to the current dreams in the hearts of his students. Who knows what dreams he himself had given up to grow into such a proselytizer of pessimism.

    I’ve carried this ambition throughout my life but as I have had it in various forms and at various ages I’ve necessarily developed a superfluity of writing goals. I have inside me the eight-year or nine-year old writer who wants to doodle simple playground stories into existence along with a host of other previous selves who want to tell their story. 

   It’s no surprise then that I’ve taken on a coterie of identities.  I’ve written some genre fiction under the name of August Van Zorn and more recently over the past five months I’ve been writing a short-short story everyday on this blog under a revolved door of different guises. 

   Because inside I still hear that voice, standing up to everyday: I want to write.

   Here’s today’s play on fiction….



If Kafka Wrote Stock Market Blurbs


    Dell lifts up stocks from pitch-black abyss of toothless grimace

NEW YORK – US stocks are holding up after stronger-than-expected earnings from Dell, but gains are limited as weaker consumer spending weighs like an obese but smiling corpse of a neglected Father upon shares. Dell holds the heavy body of this Father, asking whose? 


      Tadpole staggers like a drunken horse trampling people in a bar to second-half pretax loss

BRUSSELS – Software product developer Tadpole Technology staggers like a drunken horse trampling people in a bar to a second-half pretax loss from a profit last year due to increased investment in training. Investors are hiding under the table trying to drink the dividends per share from previous years, pretending the horse is of no relation to them. Market opportunities remain strong.


                  Efes Breweries Q2 pretax empty heart incapable of receiving love UPDATE

PARIS- Efes Breweries International lamented a wider first-quarter pretax loss due to increased expenses which piled up higher and higher like a pile of sullied laundry destined not for the wash but the flames and said it expects the cost pressures to be apparent in the gross profit line throughout 2008, a line that – with the help of rusty clothes-pins – will receive the brittle and charred remains of the burnt cloths and the wind is forecast to blow them apart. Investors, however, remain confident. 


Mixed day for chemicals firms like sun followed by rain followed by drenched child being stabbed in the arm

LONDON – Shares in chemical firms plummeted after manufacturers jointly announced they expect financial performance for the full year to be below market expectations. Like a children’s game of tag played with knives the groups’ gross margins also decreased in number. Dramatically and clumsily. The first two months of the financial year have begun well with record revenues in March.

    Lonely Planet has been rocked by scandal recently with the warts and all memoir of a former travel writer. In Do Travel Writer’s Go to Hell? Thomas Kohnstamm reveals that he never even visited Colombia. “The amount they gave me wasn’t even enough for the flight.” Elsewhere in the memoir, he explains that he sold drugs to finance a trip. 

   So what.

   I’ve been working for Lonely Planet for fifteen years. In 1998, on my way home from a 4-week stint in Central America, I was caught at the Mexican border with 3 kilos of cocaine behind my beard – I was dressed as Santa. Since then I’ve been incarcerated in California. I’ve also managed to continue writing for Lonely Planet, contributing to books on America, England, China and countries in South America. 

   How do I do it?

   I have internet access and I’ve managed to befriend a lot of inmates by writing up prime spots for their relatives’ restaurants, bars or taxi services.  I’ve also entertained everyone on the inside with this blog where I’ve claimed to be somebody different everyday. The guys get a kick out of it.

   I get out this afternoon, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to reveal the truth.

   I’m also launching my own book, Do Travel Writer’s Go to Jail?




Always Something There to Remind Me



   He opens his eyes to a white ceiling and then slams them shut under the rush of white pain. His head feels like it’s been stuffed with his stomach; an unfamiliar nausea coats his thoughts. He opens his mouth but no words come out. A voice next to him fills the room:

   “Hello, I wish to lodge a complaint regarding your Quickwhip Blender. Yes. Now, who am I speaking to? How do you spell that?”

    He tries to turn his head but pain stops him short. He lifts his arms up to his head but his reach is blocked by some kind of metal contraption, a metal frame boxing in his head. He tries to remember.

   “Yes, well Ezekiel, I purchased your product three weeks ago. I had high hopes at the time and didn’t expect to be speaking to somebody in a complaints department in the hospital. That part wasn’t mentioned in the infomercial. Do you know what I’m saying Ezekiel? Yes, in the hospital, all thanks to your fine product.”

    He wants to laugh at the story unfolding next to him but he senses it’ll just cause him more pain. He once again tries to open his eyes to orient himself to the world. White slowly grows visible until the ceiling comes into full view but it’s just like his memory: blank.

   “Well, I took the QuickWhip Blender out of the box, read the instructions fully. I spent a good ten minutes on them. I had a tea while I read them. That’s about ten minutes. I plugged it in and then it just took off. It was like a wild bird. A rabid bird. I was on the floor and it was all over me. There was nothing in the instructions that said, stand ten feet back from the QuickWhip when you plug it in.”

     He tries to remember anything but keeps coming up against blanks: name, age, occupation. He knows he’s American but that thought does little to comfort him. He’s a man. Of course he knows that too. 

    “Well then my son came into the room with a baseball bat to get it off me. Can you believe that? A baseball bat!! He’s not a violent boy. And then it was on him. You shouldn’t program these things to attack their owners. Good owners. Well my boy has his share of problems. 34 and still living at home.”

     Does her voice sound familiar? He briefly wonders if he’s the boy who she’s referring to. He waits for more clues, while she outlines the basic problems she has with her boy: posture, diet, erratic volume of voice, etc.  He prays to a God – who he may or may not believe in – that his life was something a little more glamorous. 

   Before falling into this empty blank.

   He waits.

   And since I’m fictional already I thought it wouldn’t be that big a travesty to pretend to be other fictional and non-fictional characters on this blog. For the past four months I’ve been everyone from George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden (both fictional in some respects) to a sled dog from Anchorage  and the grandson of the love child of Franz Kafka and Eleanor Roosevelt. Well today I’d like to announce my real identity; my name is Horn and I was born out of a 50-word story. I somehow (who knows how these things happen) came loose from the story and started concocting fake intros and real stories on this site. 

   Hope you enjoy today’s story….

Watching Dishes Being Washed


     Deep in the back of Lucky Time’s Bistro, Lee saddles up against the drying counter, trying to prop up his ass on the metal edge. He figures he’s got a minute before the dishes come out. “How about pitching morning, noon and night toothpaste? Get their scientists to make different blends. You know, convince people to buy three kinds. That idea would give Colgate execs a total hard-on,” Hunter shouts over the spray and splash of the dishes, his voice warped with angry enthusiasm. He lets go of the sprayer and it whips up to a hanging position, a noose. Hunter turns with a glare for Lee, “See that’s a real job.” He steps towards Lee who jumps to the side. The dishes are hauled out and Hunter lugs the rack of plates to the back wall. Lee steps aside. “But who would watch you?” Lee tries an assertive tone but it’s buried beneath the incessant din of the kitchen. “I’m okay. I don’t need a minder. I’m hard-working. I’m coming up with ideas.” His last idea – four months ago – involved a taser and a playground of children but because the courts of British Columbia deemed Hunter MacArthur mentally ill he was released on certain conditions. Lee, who’s worked with the mentally disabled for ten years, is one of those conditions. “I’m a good boy now,” Hunter slips Lee a feeble smile. Lee looks at his watch. One more hour. Tonight he’ll start a search for a new job. Or get drunk on ten beer. Whichever comes first.

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