something sad


   And while I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the blogability of my name, I do want people to know I’m a persistent mo-fo of the literary variety. I’ve been writing  poetry and prose since the 70’s and with the advent of this interweb thingy a couple years back I got to thinking, why not expand my ambitions into the digital realms. Hence, this blog where I’ve been writing a story (almost) everyday for the past six months. To make things a little more interesting (and potentially litigatious and therefore fun) I’ve been writing under a different assumed name everyday. 

    Don’t believe everything that you read, might serve as the subheading to this blog. Or perhaps: Fiction is the only fact. Something along those lines.

   Enjoy today’s short-short story…

 

On this Tip of his Something

 

     At six o’clock on the nose, he wakes up with an enormous amount of pep, as if each limb and organ in his body came equipped with its own built in alarm clock. From head to toe, ringing with energy, he shuffles in his bare feet to his bathroom in the cold Montreal apartment. He is sixty-two years old but you wouldn’t know it from his heartbeat. He does, however, have a problem.

     It’s somebody’s birthday today.

     He inspects his face and neck in the mirror, searching for cancer spots, new wrinkles, the increased puffiness of morning-eyes. His face is a calendar for decades past. He turns the X-shaped faucet for cold and gives his face a splash. It is the 14th of October, he reminds himself, the 14th letter of the Phoenician alphabet stands for this day. Alphabet. He wonders why he thought “alphabet.” Technically, the Phoenician script was an abjad, the term to describe a system of consonants. Vowels were too slippery and protean to waste letters on three thousand years ago. He muses while he scrubs his face vigorously. The harder he thinks, the fiercer the scrubbing. In his previous life he was a professor of ancient languages. 

   Who’s birthday is it, he wonders as he looks at himself in the mirror. He’ll meet some colleagues for lunch. Is it one of theirs? If he can remember whose birthday it is he’ll be able to buy them something appropriate. Has he bought something already? He’ll check the living room but by the time he shuffles through the living room he’s forgotten that thought. He clings to this lapse in his memory the way an overboard sailor holds to a piece of wood in the wide ocean. 

    When he looks at the calendar in the kitchen, his wrinkles zig-zag with sudden tears. It’s his birthday. He can’t deny any longer the onslaught of the disease.

    This too he will forget.

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   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. 

    I mean I was writing a lot and making up stories on the internet and practicing my English with this unique psychological technique where you pretend to be somebody pretending to be somebody pretending to be somebody else, etc, etc. It’s about planting English deep into your psyche. It’s supposed to work. So anyway, this is what I’ve been doing for the past five months on this blog but yesterday I was banned from my own blog for reasons I won’t go into and this is what happened.

 

 So after I settled down I felt much better and I wrote this story…

 

The Rainbow and the Unicorn

 
   And it came to pass that the Unicorn fell sparklingly in love with the Rainbow. The Unicorn you see was myopic and assumed that the Rainbow was the colorful horn of a beautiful female in the distance. One glorious afternoon, after three days of heavy showers, the Rainbow emerged from behind a billowy-pillowy head of clouds. “We meet at last,” said the Unicorn to the cloud assuming it was full of cute and gentle Unicorn brains. “I’ve spent so long looking for you and now at last here we are.” There was an awkward silence during which the colors of the Rainbow grew in vibrant intensity. The Unicorn’s hearts beat a drum solo. (For just as cows have four stomachs, Unicorns have four hearts and are therefore considered exceedingly amorous beasts.) Sadly, the winds picked up in the distance and started to scatter the clouds. “Okay well let’s promise to meet here tomorrow.” But the Unicorn’s imaginary date never materialized. And that is why you should never make a promise under a rainbow.


 

     I’m the Executive Director of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ but in a recent article in the Walrus magazine, I was given a simpler moniker: “the de facto head of the Doukhobors.” 

     I’ve started this site in order to explore conflict. Here in British Columbia we have a great opportunity to become experts in understanding the inner workings of the conflict that emerges all around the globe. We have a microcosm of the world in our multicultural towns and cities and if we try to understand our fellow man and woman, we can become a prototype for communities of the future. 

     This requires seeing things in different ways. Over the past four months I’ve written a story everyday from the point of view of someone else as an attempt at putting myself in someone else’s shoes. For today, I’ve written the following fable in the typical architecture of a “joke” but it diverges and becomes an exploration into something else. In my humble opinion that’s what we all need a little more of: divergence of opinion while maintaining a respect for others points of view.

   And some chuckles along the way.

 

A FABLE FOUND IN THE CONFUSION OF A JOKE

     Unbeknownst to one another, Jesus, Muhammad and the Buddha were waiting at JFK to board a transatlantic flight to Europe, a six-hour trip, for vacations to get away from it all. Jesus was sitting closest to the large windows by the boarding gate. He was squeezed in at both sides by a family from New Jersey that – through their sizes and volumes and attitudes- often absorbed strangers into their scrum. The two youngest Roundsters, seated to the right of Jesus, were once again fighting.

    “Where’s the video camera?”

    “What camera?”

     “The reality t.v. camera that’s following you. Weirdo of One. Isn’t that your show?” 

      “Shut up.”

     “Weirdo of One.”

      “Shut up.”

      “Weirdo of One.”

      “Shut up.”

      Their father – to the left of Jesus – was analyzing the back of his boarding pass, going through the fine print, trying to find loopholes. “There are special categories of people that can board first. War vets, etc. They don’t announce anything but you can go first anyway.”

     “You’re not a war vet.”

     “For example.”

     “Weirdo of One.”

     “Shut up.”

    “Weirdo of One.”

     “Shut up.”

     “Would you kids pipe down. I can’t hear myself think over here.” 

      Jesus held the magazine – Fly Fishing America – closer to his face. He tried to remember being on the cross with the two men on either side of him. That was easy, this is now. Which one went up to heaven? Right or left? The one with the bigger beard and the breath that you could’ve cut with a knife. 

      Just then Jesus felt a tap on his knee. He lowered the magazine to witness a young boy with a brace on his left leg. The blond-haired boy looked up to Christ in supplication. 

     Finally.

     “Are you Jesus ?” the boy asked.

    “Yes, my son.”

    “Will you heal my Gameboy? It won’t work.” The blond boy held it up in the cupped palms of his hands.

     Christ sighed. “I don’t do electronics.”

     The boy ran away crying. “Jesus won’t fix my Gameboy.”

     “Weirdo of One.”

     “Shut up.”

     “Weirdo of One.”

     “Shut up.”

     Unbeknownst to Jesus, the Buddha and Muhammad were undergoing similar ordeals two and three rows behind him.

 

   Yes, it’s a mouthful of an introduction and so usually I just say hello my name is Denis Stepkin. How my grandparents got together in 1959 – before either of them had achieved fame in their respective fields of literature and rock and roll – is a long story and even longer is the tale of my mother ending up in Russia. Needless to say my work involves sprinkles of magic realism and psychedelia and everything that was best in my grandparents. The past four months of stories on this blog wherein I’ve created different authors and stories for each day is also a kind of Borgian experiment in truth, falsehoods and fiction.  In a nutshell: a meta-fictional, psychedelic freak-out.

   Enjoy…

 

 

The Curse of Laughter

 

 

    On May 12th of 1949, after the twins were delivered from a sixteen-hour labor, their father held them in his right and left arms and joked that they must have been locked in a struggle to make it out first. “They’ll be no favorites in these arms. No need to fight anymore boys,” he said but Misha and Sasha kicked their tiny legs at each other and the nurses had to separate them. Over the first decade of their lives the competition grew in leaps and bounds as the boys constantly tried to outdo one another: Misha with death-defying stunts (a tight-rope routine on a barbed-wire for example) and Sasha with his magic and comedy act which he snuck out into the night to perform at bars outside of St Petersburg. For their father’s thirtieth birthday, Sasha presented him with a birthday card containing 500 rubles of his secret earnings. Their father’s other gift was a fat tie with a smiling Stalin on the front that Misha had sewn himself. Sticking out from the dictator’s head were real hairs which Misha had plucked from Old Joe on a trip to the capital. With the family’s fortunes in decline, it was obvious which gift was the dearer and late that night Misha ran away from home with tears in his eyes to wander the Russian Steps where he met an obscure tribe of Cossacks who taught him real magic. Upon his return, ten years later, his brother laughed at his wild and savage appearance. In response: “This is the curse I will give to you. There will always be laughter springing from your lips. Through death and grief and whatever you may feel inside, your mouth will produce nothing but laughter.”  Sasha laughed even harder at the curse but later that night when he stubbed his toe on the edge of the bed, his body erupted in laughter. Fear spread through his heart as his body contorted in apparent mirth. Over the next couple of years, he lost friends and positions in entertainment clubs from his inappropriate laugher. (For audiences always want to enjoy a routine more than the performer. They’re the ones who are paying after all.) The terror of the curse hit home the hardest when their father died and Sasha attended the funeral at a distance so as not to interrupt the somber proceedings with peals of laughter. Sasha plotted his revenge and, learning that his brother had become an aspiring writer, he sought out a suitable curse: his brother would never come up with satisfying endings to stories. Never.

   Perhaps you read about me in the latest issue of Wired Magazine where I explained my supermemo memory system. Well, improving memory isn’t my only passion, I also love literature. In fact, this site is where my two passions dovetail into something wholly unique.

    Over the past one hundred days I’ve been introducing myself each day as someone completely different who presents a story which he or she claims to have written. The reason why I’ve busied myself with what appears to be a fools game of a 100 Masks is that each introduction and accompanying story is an ornately detailed mnemonic that symbolically holds all the important details of the day.

   For example, when I claimed to be Tom Cruise, on January 16th,  I was traveling by boat (cruising) with a group of friends. Each word in the introduction is code for some event through the day. Downloading my supermemo memory system will explain how it all works. 

    Does it sound a little crazy? Maybe. 

    Does it work? 

    Definitely.

    Or my name isn’t Tom Cruise, I mean JK Rowling, I mean Troy Craig I mean Piotr Wozniak.

    See I have a sense of humor.

    Today’s story, on the other hand, is a little on the sadder side of things.

    A stab at something beautiful.

 

Memory Slips Like Soap 

 

     I’m suspicious of that bar of soap on the edge of the tub. It seems to be in a different location from where I last laid it. I think it moved of its own volition through the night. I’m sure that sounds crazy but what other sane conclusion can I draw? I live alone and nobody has a key to my flat. Ergo, either something is wrong with my soap or something is tremendously wrong with me and as I pride myself on never forgetting anything I think it’s clear: I’ve been washing myself with a half sentient bar of soap these past two weeks and now it’s trying to escape.

     I mean wouldn’t you?

     I’m not saying I have a grotesque body or hideous features, I’m considered quite handsome by some. Well it was said once. My wife said I was handsome once, just after we met for the first time in a trigonometry class in university. We were three months into the semester and friendly chit-chat had given way to pure mathematics. It was after class and I was at her desk, bent over her notes in great concentration, trying to get hold of the answer. She whispered that I was handsome but I didn’t let on that I had heard her. I let her believe that my singular mind had blocked everything but numbers out of my head. In fact I had glanced at her cleavage twice. 

   She was beautiful. A picture of her is held in the back of my mind. I’m not suspicious of that picture for it’s a perfect replica of what she was. I have an excellent visual memory that holds millions of faces and formulas. 

    And the everyday positions of an errant bar of soap.

    I have to get into the tub and wash because there’s an interviewer coming over at 5:35. I told her to come over exactly at that time because I’ll be studying Arabic until 5:30. That’s what my schedule tells me, but I’m off schedule. 

    The dominoes fall. 

    I knew I shouldn’t have agreed to the interview but it’s for a popular magazine that will help publicize the research I’ve been conducting upon myself. I’ve been working outside of any university and so there’s no hope for funding there. My only recourse is to private funding. I haven’t left my house for three years and I need to take a shower before she comes over. 

    I’ve had showers before: 1,034 to be precise.

    At the back of my mind there are not only faces and formulas but also numbers that slowly revolve forward: so far I’ve written 435 words, breathed 47 times in and 48 times out and blinked 112 times. To name a few figures.

    Everything in my house is arranged as a mnemonic. There are two toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste scattered in a loose triangle on the floor. They stand for the three years that I’ve spent memorizing everything under the sun. The shower curtain is on the floor which reminds me of the exact shape of the Rocky Mountains (her favorite place in the world). The phone is off the hook and beeps incessantly. It’s been beeping like that for three years.

    Everything is as it should be but that bar of soap is in a different position.

    I think.

    It’s not where it was three years ago when I came home to her body. This is a memory that emerges of its own volition from time to time. Sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep, I see her on the floor and I run to get the phone and I fall and it starts to beep. When I came home after the funeral I didn’t move anything but set about perfecting my memory so that I could hold everything in place.

    But.

    I have never had such a powerful memory of her in the middle of the day. Not at 4:53 anyway.

    Grief grows in unturned directions.

    This morning at 8:05 I briefly forgot her favorite color. 

    As if moths in the back of my mind have started to chew holes in my memory.

    Lacunae as larva for even more of less.

   I’m Jun from Korea and I study English at Inlingua. It’s an outstandingly great school even though some of the teachers like Kevin Spenst are a little on the goddamn crazy side. 
  I’ve been writing a story everyday for the past four months on this blog because I want to fine tune my English and understand the world a little better. It’s also a goddamn assignment for school so I have no choice. Can you believe that? The assignment is to write something everyday pretending to be somebody I’m not. My teacher is a goddamn slave-driver. But he’s cool.
   Nice to meet you.
   Here’s a sad story. 

The Cuckcoo Clock Flew Over the One

   Such a big whistle for such a small bird, the little boy thinks to himself as he looks up at the tiny house on the wall. The bird retreats and the little boy can’t imagine the yellow bird being happy in such a small house. Alone.
   He gets a chair from the kitchen and slams it into the wall. He gets scissors from the kitchen and snaps them open and shut. His grandmother is fast asleep on the black leather couch.
   At one o’clock the yellow bird emerges and the little boy cuts the wood holding the bird back. It falls to the floor without a sound. Something in the house is still cuckcooing but the boy can’t see inside. There’s another one, the little boy thinks. 
  Alone.

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