something serious


 

   And just as man doesn’t live by bread alone, or wine alone, or cheeses or meats alone, so too do writer’s need variety in their diets. I’ve been penning novels and some short stories over the course of my – by some accounts – sixty-year career but of late I found that I wanted to taste something different. It is for this reason that I embarked upon a “blog” wherein I could write a fantastical little story everyday. I did however want to keep it at a distance from my other writings – as the stories were rough and unedited – therefore I’ve been writing under an assumed name with each and every story for the past six months.

   Today I felt it was time to reveal the truth.

   I hope you enjoy today’s short-short burst of fiction.

 


 

Forevermore at Most

 

 

    The father with a prosthetic arm is taking his five-year-old son out to the large green park five minutes from their doorstep. Their Siberian Husky, Bobo – named after the father’s favorite jazz pianist, Bobo Stensen, is on a leash and the boy holds onto the strap which is looped around his father’s hand. In this touch, the son feels like he’s responsible for taking the dog out for a walk but by the time they reach the park the son is tugging at the strap, hoping to take full possession of the dog. But they’re at the park and the son might as well be trying to leash the wind or sun because their dog knows that now’s his time to run up and down the green field. Bobo tugs at the leash and the man is pulled forward. Bobo, he says firmly and the dog’s ears move back but he still smiles. I want to hold him, the five-year-old boy cries and stamps his foot on the green grass but it’s too late because Bobo is running with his tongue hanging out of his mouth the way his head would be hanging out of a car window. The boy sniffles and shouts, bad dog but Bobo is already at a distance. The father notes this new insistence in the boy who’s just started school. Perhaps, he’s trying to regain control over a world that’s changing. The father is a psychologist and tinkers all day with people and theories about their actions. The father tells the boy not to cry but this only serves as a challenge and the boy cries louder. Bobo wags his tail in the distance and then starts to run back. He looks up waiting for the familiar orange of the plastic ball. The father throws the ball with his right arm which is his flesh and blood arm. Do you want to go home, he asks his son who then starts to wail like a siren. Other people in the once quiet park look over to the pair. Bobo is already back with the ball in his mouth. His tail wags like a metronome on its fastest setting. At the sight of Bobo, the boy cries all the harder, reaching his own loudest setting. The father can’t explain this dramatic display of grief in his son. Bobo drops the ball between the boy and his father. Do you want to throw the ball, the father asks but the boy doesn’t want to release anything, he wants to hold something in his hands but how can the father know this? After all he’s not a child psychologist. Distracted, the father puts the ball into his left arm which, when he goes to throw the ball, flies out into the air with the ball. The dog is impressed with the variety of choice and brings back the prosthetic forearm. The boy wipes his tears, takes the arm from the dog and gives it to his father. Here’s a simple solution to all their worries. All three are happy once again.

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      And I’m told that they’re going to suspend my computer privileges so there’s no point in pretending to be someone else anymore. I’ve been working on a series of characters and accompanying stories for a book called “Prose and Cons.”  

     That is all. 

     Enjoy today’s short-short story…   

 


 

In the Mountains a Story

 

   A short man, pudgy around the waist, packed a lunch of 5 Polish crepes and cucumber to take on his journey to the mountains to consult the Scientist-Wizard. At the foot of the mountains the pudgy man shouted, “Scientist-Wizard, I come in search of a new self. I’m 42 years old and I need to become something new.” These words echoed up through the valley running between the mountains and the pudgy man wished that could be the end of his efforts. But after several minutes of silence, the pudgy man undertook the four hour hike up the side of the mountain  When he reached the mouth of the Scientist-Wizard’s cave he whined, “You should put in some steps.” “Enlightenment’s never at the top of an escalator my dear friend,” the Scientist-Wizard replied, holding out a green potion. The man grabbed the drink and gulped it back after which he fell to the ground and writhed about like a fish. His body changed into something marvelously powerful. His skull grew two sizes larger to make room for all the new brains inside. Hours later he lifted himself up from the dirt, brushed himself off and looked down at his body. With his powerful new voice he shouted into the valley. He counted the number of times he’d breathed in his life. But somehow he still felt empty. The Scientist-Wizard emerged from his cave and asked if everything was in order. The man sighed, “I’m still the same inside. Deep down I don’t feel anything different.” 

   “It’s not my fault you made the wrong choice. I offered you advice or a drink. You took the easier one and failed to consider my words of wisdom which will always be there for you to take but will always remain outside your grasp.”


    Yes, I’m George Stroumboulopoulos and I’m here to prove that I’m more than just a funny name. I’m also a writer. The stories that have been penned over the past five months on this site are none other than creations of yours truly. Yeah, I love hanging with guests at the Hour but in the evenings when I’m home alone, I sit down and write up a little something within the gathering silence of my soul.

   Yes, I’ve been fibbing for the past five months about my real identity but I wanted this site to make it on its own. I’ve had a lot of fun pretending to be others. I even got a comment recently from someone thinking that I was Yann Martel.  As this blog has almost reached five thousand visits I think it stands on its own and I can tell you who I really am.

   I hope you enjoy…

 


 

The Writer, the Thief, the Cop and the Father of Something

 

   A block from home, John got off the #4 to stroll along his favorite route. It was a cold, rainy Monday in June but he felt refreshed, brimming with optimism and the light rain felt full of memories. At a leisurely pace, his shoes slapping the small puddles on the sidewalk, he took greater notice of the world around him. A middle aged woman who’d also just gotten off the bus fumbled through a mess of unknowns to get to the keys in her black purse. John watched her carefully as she opened the front door of her apartment. “Dig through every moment for clusters of detail,” John thought to himself but she was already out of his view. Turning the corner at Pandora, he scanned the odds and ends of lifestyles cluttered on the patios of a three-story apartment building. He noticed how easy it would be to step up from the brick border below to one particular balcony on the second floor. What kind of story could be propped up on that brick? A teenager sneaking home late at night? A neighbor in need of one more chair for a barbeque? A ex-husband sneaking back to collect some things that are rightfully his?

    “I can’t leave you in the car alone.” John looked over to the street and made eye contact with a man standing over the back door of his Honda. The man’s gaze glared with resentment that he was having to share this awkward moment with a total stranger. John glanced back at the stories of apartments. The windows were now streaked with raindrops that were getting larger.

    Meters away from his own apartment building entrance, John heard the woop-woop of a lazy police siren. A patrol car crunched onto the gravel in front of him and a stocky police officer swaggered out from behind the car. The rain started to fall heavily and John reached for an umbrella holstered at the side of his backpack.

    “Hold it right there,” the officer shouted and pulled out his gun. He spun for cover on the other side of his patrol car. “Do not make any sudden movements and put your hands where I can see them.”

     Fear and confusion cascaded down John’s body but he raised his shaking arms against this weight.

     “I was just going to get my umbrella,” he said quickly. “I’m just on my way home.” He turned slowly to show the umbrella at his side.

     The officer slowly walked out from behind the cover of his car. “There’ve been a string of break-ins in the neighborhood and the suspect’s profile fits yours. You’re not hiding an Australian accent are you?” 

    “No.”

     As John reassured the officer of his innocence and Canadianness, the man he’d seen earlier by the car walked by with a labradoodle in a pink sweater. Under an umbrella the man was reading aloud from Watership Down with none of the grimness of the expression before. The dog seemed to be listening as he walked at the man’s side. 

    The officer apologized but reassured John that his caution was for his own good.

     “6 places broken into. An Australian apparently. We can’t take that lightly,” the officer said and stretched his chin out. 

     As the officer left, John fumbled for his keys and imagined a list of reachable things people have mistakenly been shot for: umbrellas, slices of bacon degreasing in a book, a collector’s bus pass from 1972, a labradoodle collar, early success.

  Yesterday, after coming home from work I came across this article about unusual bookmarks.  I’ve also found a slice of bacon as well as a nail-polished fingernail clipping, a photo of a nude dwarf cheating at poker and a garter belt with a telephone number on it. The slice of bacon that I found was on page 45 of Michael Ondaatje’s the English Patient. I remember that page as being a particularly tough hurdle and I guess the person reading the book gave up then and there (while eating breakfast). There were grease streaks throughout the earlier pages and I tried to read the book again but I kept imagining Hana feeding the English Patient bacon. It ruined the poetry of the reading experience.

  There isn’t much else to say about myself. My name is Jack and I’m the one behind the past five months of different stories on this site. It’s just something I decided to do a while back. I haven’t really thought too much about it and today seemed like as good a day as any to come out with my real identity.

  And here’s a story for today…


 

Halo Power

 

On an overcast afternoon in September, John saddled his paint-flecked body over the deck railing of his newly purchased house to get at a window. He placed his foot out on the outer border of the terrace that held no greenery and after a weighty fall and thump he was lifting his broken neck up from the grass below, his head inches from the brick border of the empty garden. He crawled to his old house across the cul-de-sac and called his daughter-in-law. When she arrived her two children raced out ahead of her shouts for them to wait, wait, wait and once up the familiar stairs of their grandparent’s place the granddaughter screamed at the sight of her Grandda holding up his head. Three months later, with a halo holding vertebras C3 and C4 in place, John was looking out the window of the old house, thinking of what needed to be done with the new. At the weekend arrival of his son-in-law he walked a lively jig into the kitchen. The top frame of his halo bumped the edge of the open fridge twice as he tried to get at two beers deep in the back. “Today, we’ll celebrate the luck of the Irish, so we will,” he said and his daughter asked her niece about the state that they found Grandda in. The five-year old did a Disney version of Munch’s scream with her head at an angle and her eyes askew. Everyone laughed and John smiled but deep down he was thinking of what paints he’d mix together for the trim around the windows.


 

    And when I’m not touring the world with Iron Maiden, or working on solo material, or flying commercial planes around Europe, or producing television programs for the BBC or fencing, I like to relax and pretend I’m someone else. The past five months of stories on this blog have been a playful effort towards creating a labyrinth of different fictions, falsehoods and identities. The challenge for you the reader is to glean the truth. That I’m Bruce Dickinson can be easy proved by looking into the parallels between the lyrics of Iron Maiden songs and the themes explored in the short-short stories on this blog.

  Here’s today’s story from the point of view of an audience member at an Iron Maiden concert in Vancouver.

 


 

making one little something an everywhere

 

   As we walk through the muddy heavy-metal parking lot my entire body is buzzing with the thrill of seeing Iron Maiden once again. “Grad 88,” one woman screams from the back of a pick up truck. I help Paul finish his tall can of beer on the final stretch down Renfrew and suddenly we’re inside the Pacific Coliseum where I’m amazed at the flora and fauna of hair drooping from head-bangers young and old. Twenty-three years ago, when Paul and I saw Maiden for the first time the Coliseum was packed to the rafters with teenagers in leather jackets. Now we make the steep hike to our seats in section 25, aisle 20, passing out of shape geezers older than us. The concert begins with the sold-out Coliseum shrieking as one beast to the start of Aces High and things are pretty cool but throughout the show Bruce Dickinson says Vancouver too many times. He puts the word everywhere. He’s like a pilot flying around and around a city, announcing the obvious. But the view still seems spectacular, expansive even. During Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner I want to tell Paul something interesting about Coleridge, the poet who wrote the original lyrics to this song 200 years ago. “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink,” I catch in the screams near the end and I realize the song is over and I didn’t really hear any of the poetry under the crunch of the guitars. I let out a full bodied scream anyway.

    I try to remember Paul’s dad picking us up on that snowy night in ’85 and the slow drive back to Surrey but this time around I say good-bye to Paul and walk home alone along Pandora Street. I imagine myself as a 14-year-old walking the streets of East Vancouver after the show, trying to find Paul and his dad. How familiar would the houses have looked?  I try to imagine the present through the past, searching for insight into change but suddenly I’m home. Lisa is in front of the computer recording something with her guitar.  It’s past eleven and I have to get up at five-thirty but my ears are ringing and my body’s still buzzing. “I just started working on a song for our wedding favors,” Lisa says. It takes a second for this to register any meaning, “wedding favors”. Lisa walks into the living room and sits down on the couch with her guitar in her lap and I stretch out on the rug with my head sinking into a large blue throw pillow. A big glass of water rests on my chest.  I look at the wall and think about having to wake up and go to work in a routine that’s now into its second decade. Briefly, the routine feels as small as our living room but then Lisa plays some chords that she’s strung together. “I don’t want to sing yet,” she says but lyrics from the back of my mind are supplied for the moment: “And makes one little room an everywhere.” This line from a poem by John Donne surprises me and I want to tell Lisa that it’s for her but she’s playing and I close my eyes and listen to the chords of her nascent song. My desire for insight into memory and change is fulfilled with gentle waves of bliss.

   With her guitar strumming talent, with her puddle-sized blue eyes, with her house proud nature, with her supernatural love of horses, with her neurotic quirks, with her ardent devotion to family and friends, with her bird-song voice, with her concern for delicate details, with her snoopy nature that wants to unearth all the secrets of a stranger’s heart, with her laughter that giggles up in joy, with her gestures that articulate a deeply felt vision, with her love that I feel to my core, with her buried Irish brogue, with her turns from gentle to fierce.

   She makes one little memory an everywhere.

 

     I suppose that’s always been my downfall. I open my mouth to say something profound but near the end of my discourse – fearing boredom on the part of my listeners – I want to jump up and down waggling my tongue to make everyone laugh or conversely if I start telling a joke I end up wanting to go off on some philosophical tangent. (for Ludwig Wittgenstein did suggest that an entire book of philosophy be written consisting of nothing but jokes) Hence this site which swings from funny to philosophical on a day to day basis. This site where I put on the cloak of another identity everyday. This site which charts the ups and downs of my moods. This site which I thank you for visiting on this your precious day.

    My name is Haber Klaustein and I live in Germany near the French border. I am five feet tall and when I’m laughing people think I’m weeping but when I weep people think I’m laughing.  The problem I suppose is that I’m so short people have no idea what I’m doing when my head is down. If I were six feet tall the world would know my emotions. As it stands, only children and dogs know my feelings but they of course are indifferent to such matters. This makes me weep and then people – thinking I’m laughing and wanting to get in on the joke – will throw in their two bits, telling me the one about the blind midget and the two-by-four.  Sometimes this makes me laugh. Sometimes it only serves to make me cry harder and then more people gather to make even more digusting jokes.

   In the end, what usually happens is that I come to this site to compose an identity – anyone taller than five-foot eight – and I climb up the ladder set up next to the computer and I dream of looking at the world from another height.  But today I pushed the ladder onto its side to write as myself.  Today is different because you’re reading and I realize that in communicating with another human being there is no height or weight or even nationality but simply the gist of what is to be shared.

    “I’m five feet tall,” I can write in a sentence that might make you laugh or think. I’m not sure which but the important thing is that it’s true.

   And here’s a story with the same problem…



 
The Clown that Could Compose Immortality


     The juxtaposition of the external self and the soul has never been greater than that of the case of Uli Stampenklammer a clown with the Klintskloppen circus which toured the smaller towns of Bavaria in the 1950’s and 60’s. For while Uli was famed for falling from great heights and then yelling some gibberish that inspired laughter (like “shizenhimmersvelt” or “kunstkoppenglimmerklop”), it was only revealed after his death that he also wrote under the pseudonym of Bernhart Strom, the famed mystic who wrote about the depths of the suffering of the soul. At his funeral on June 8th 1968, circus folk stood shoulder to shoulder with religious mystics from around the world. Moments of awkward silence potholed the ceremony like an old road that could barely be travelled. Where did his heart and soul really lie? To this day, Germans have a word –  Stampenklammerstrom- to describe the awkward feeling accompanying a decision to be made during a dilemma.  Some secretly take pleasure in this feeling.

   On my good days. On my off days I’m simply a fugitive with too much time on his hands. I’ve been writing these posts over the past five months as a way to communicate and practice the lies that are my daily bread and butter. When I arrive in a town I have to introduce myself with another identity. This is where I get some practice at saying, Hi I’m Jeff Ladouceur, or Hi I’m Lee Henderson, etc.  So why am I now stooping to the truth ?
   Even liars need a break once in a while.
   Don’t you think?

 When the World Withers Away

  I think it’s June. A hundred little signs tell me so. Of course the stuff of the world has dwindled from years ago when the world was so much more, this new world which I was the first to discover. I was a late 21st Century Columbus but there was no colonization, reward or even fame to follow. I never went back to earth. Couldn’t. They have no space programs on this planet.  Otherwise everything is like home with seasons, months and even people running from place to place with an eye on the clock. But happier. In some ways.  For one thing nobody dies on this planet.
   The world dies around you.
   I couldn’t believe it myself and when someone tried to explain this to me I thought I’d landed on an asylum planet with schitzophrenia being the order of the day.  But they looked and talked normal otherwise and were very hospitable to me as a stranger, offering me citizenship in the country that I landed. They even set me up with a job selling dice – a huge industry on this planet.  Through these early years of learning the ropes the only nagging worry was this denial of death but I never saw any cemetaries. There were no bereavement cards in stores and nobody knew what a coffin was. One night over beers with some of the guys at work I pressed the issue of death.

    “So absolutely no one dies?”

    This was probably the hundredth time I’d asked and so Joe finally caved.

    “The world dies around you.”

    “So there is death. Everyone else dies.”

    “It’s not really death per se. It’ s just everything slips into non-existence around you, as if it never were. I mean this is heady stuff. You can’t put it into words. I mean you can try but they’ll come up short.  They’ll disappear too but that’s nothing to be sad about. That’s nothing.”

   We stayed up extra late that night. I felt like I was ten years old again looking into the sky, contemplating infinity or something. It was odd to feel young in the face of such strangeness but when I went to bed and my face hit the sheets the nothingness seemed like a preview of the future.

    And here I am at the beginning of a shrinking world. I’ve retired because I can’t be counted on. Some days I’m gone. People don’t ask where I’ve been because they know I’ve started to slip into the other realm. This existence of an eternal one that flat-lines onto itself in a beep that goes on forever and ever. I don’t know how people know that. I suppose I’ll find out myself what it means. It’s funny to think that I can learn anything in this state. The sun didn’t come up yesterday. Otherwise it was a nice June day somewhat short of flowers and grass and distances but the warm breeze was enjoyable.  It reminded me of something. Somebody, maybe.

   I wonder how people on earth are doing? I forget more and more about my life as an astronaut on Earth – off of Earth. 

    June.

   The month I was married. 

   The photo I kept of her disappeared yesterday. Well it was an empty square.

   An anniversary blank.

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